Mumbai: A fierce footballing rivalry is not new. Spain have El Clasico, England have the Merseyside derby. And while football may not be the most popular game in India, the Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal stands tall in comparison to the other prestigious derbies in the world of football.
While the newly-formed Indian Super League (ISL) has taken some shine off the I-league, the fanaticism on display among fans during a Kolkata derby remains unparalleled. The match still draws huge crowds and violent clashes between fans are a regular occurrence.
On Sunday, there will an air of nostalgia in Siliguri as arch rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan square up against each other. The legacy clubs have been accused of mismanagement and Bengaluru FC, a club founded only in 2013, has already established itself as India’s best. But the latest round of the famous derby is a face-off of the table-toppers.
East Bengal leads the table with 19 points, with Bagan in the second position with 16 points and a game in hand. The match will have a big bearing on the title race, with Bengaluru struggling this season. East Bengal have been in a sublime form and they will start as favourites against a Bagan team which has stitched a string of unconvincing wins this season.
The league leaders have scored 17 goals this season and will rely heavily on their formidable strike partnership of Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Plaza and Haitian footballer Wedson Anselme. Both strikers have scored five goals each and will be looking to add to their tally.
The Mariners on the other hand have forced 12 goals this season, with half of them being scored by Daryl Duffy. In such a scenario, the club will be looking to shut down the Red and Gold brigade’s attack, hoping that their attacking force comprising Sony Norde, Katsumi Yusa, Jeje Lapekhlua and Duffy steal a winner.
Defender Eduardo is declared fit and is expected to partner Anas Edathodika in defence, while Kingshuk Debnath and Raju Gaikwad are out injured. East Bengal don’t have any major injury concerns and will be hoping to continue their good run.
The Red and Gold brigade have won 15 of the 38 league derbies, while the Mariners have won 11....