Kochi: Mohun Bagan have a tradition to keep as they boot up for a head-on clash with Churchill Brothers in the first semi-final of the 35th Federation Cup football championships at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
In the finals of the last seven editions, a club from Kolkata has always been represented. The elimination of holders East Bengal has handed the baton over to their city rivals Bagan.
A resilient Churchill are the first obstacle in Bagan’s course. The Goans are the only team to have won all their group matches.
Bagan and Churchill have taken contrasting routes to the semi-finals. The former have netted eight goals and conceded just once in three group matches while their Goan opponents have had to sweat it out.
“We have had a tough qualification. We conceded always, but we have had to score more to win. That gives us a real morale boost,” said Churchill coach Mariano Dias.
Abdelhamid Shabana, Balwant Singh and new recruit Anthony Wolfe have scored two apiece in Churchill’s campaign and they have worked cohesively to win a tough group comprising Pune FC, United SC and Eagles FC.
Meanwhile, Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa said there was tremendous pressure on his side.
“We cannot have weaknesses against a strong side like Churchill,” said Bencherifa.
Talismanic striker Odafa Okolie and Chizoba Christopher and their wily Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa are Bagan’s main players.
Mohun Bagan vs Churchill Brothers (4.30pm), Dempo SC vs SCG (7.30pm)...