Mohammedan Sporting and East Bengal clash in a round 24 encounter of the Airtel I-League at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday evening.
The two local rivals have contrasting targets in the final stages of the campaign as East Bengal are chasing the title while Mohammedan are fighting to remain in the I-League for another season.
East Bengal are currently seven points behind league leaders Bengaluru FC but have two games in hand. They are unbeaten in their last six matches but have failed to record back-to-back wins in this season’s I-League.
This game gives them another chance to change that statistic as last weekend they defeated Sporting Clube de Goa 2-1. Armando Colaco’s side also defeated Mohammedan 2-1 last month and will be confident of doing the double despite some injury concerns.
It remains to be seen whether club captain Mehtab Hossain plays any part in the match as he has only recently recovered from an injury but the red-and-gold brigade can expect a tough test as Mohammedan are desperate for points.
The black and whites might have won both the Durand Cup and IFA Shield but the primary target at the start of the season was to survive in the I-League especially after working so hard to get back into the top flight after four seasons.
They have only managed one win in their last 12 I-League fixtures with last round’s game ending in a 1-1 draw with United Sports Club. The biggest concern for Mohammedan has been the lack of goals as they have the worst offensive record in the league with only 18 in 20 matches.
Sanjoy Sen’s side are currently placed rock-bottom and have four more games to avoid the drop.
“It has become a very tough challenge for us. However, we have to fight till the last match. Every game is a do or die for us and so we must give absolutely everything,” Sen was quoted as saying.
History also doesn’t offer Mohammedan hope as they have never beaten East Bengal in either the National Football League or I-League with two draws and seven defeats.
But East Bengal too are under pressure to get the victory and maintain the pressure on table toppers Bengaluru. Hence this Kolkata derby promises to be an exciting affair.