Debayan: East Bengal face fight to clip Bagan's wings

Sunday's Kolkata derby in Siliguri will see the top two teams of the I-League go head to head against each other. Games between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are almost always impossible to predict, so what could the contest boil down to?

East Bengal wingbacks against Mohun Bagan wingers

Mohun Bagan tend to get on a roll as soon as the likes of Katsumi Yusa and Sony Norde start getting space to work with. East Bengal's full-backs, which could include Rahul Bheke and Narayan Das, will need to strike the right balance between maintaining shape and joining into attack. Bheke is more of a threat when going forward, which might force head coach Trevor Morgan to consider starting with Robert Lalthamuana. It might be a case of Morgan starting with one tactic, defensive or offensive, and keeping the other card up his sleeve depending on how the match develops.

Restricting the space

East Bengal are the form team of the competition, and the main reason behind that has been the addition of Wedson Anselme and Willis Plaza, who attack with short passes and strength on the ball. It could be an interesting match if Anselme and Plaza, together with the well-built Robin Singh, start using their physicality to put pressure on what is likely to be a new centre-back combination for Bagan. Both Anas Edathodika and Eduardo Ferreira are good defenders, but will need good co-ordination in their first outing in what is expected to be a cauldron-like atmosphere. Perhaps the role of Pronay Halder as defensive midfielder will be the most crucial in providing cover for Anas and Eduardo.

Can Jeje work his magic?

East Bengal have been tidy in defence, with Ivan Bukenya an outright star from his first appearance this season and Gurwinder Singh shrugging off an indifferent start. Jeje Lalpekhlua - more than Darryl Duffy, Katsumi or Norde - has the game to unlock this defensive roadblock, particularly with his strong build. Expect Jeje to drop deep from time to time allowing space for Duffy to open up, but if there's a goalmouth melee, it will be Jeje that East Bengal will worry most about.

The safe keepers

Mohun Bagn's Debjit Majumder and East Bengal's TP Rehenesh are two of the best goalkeepers in the I-League. Rehenesh is the better decision-maker off set-pieces, while Majumder is the better shot-stopper of the two. This could mean East Bengal testing Majumder with aerial balls, especially with the height of Robin Singh to work with. Correspondingly, Mohun Bagan might be tempted to try and beat Rehenesh from distance, especially if Norde can create angles to shoot when bearing down on goal.

The young ones

There are some fantastic young players on either side, many of whom will be making their derby debut in Siliguri. East Bengal's Mehtab Hossain said he could not sleep the night before his first derby, so it's easy to imagine how it must be for the likes of Nikhil Poojary, Subhasish Bose, Abhinash Ruidas and Prabir Das going into this game. They will not be overawed, with the experience of a good start to the campaign behind them, but the ones among them who can keep their nerve on the field will play a critical part in getting their team over the line.

Likely lineups

East Bengal: TP Rehenesh, Rahul Bheke, Ivan Bukenya, Gurwinder Singh, Narayan Das, Mehtab Hossain, Nikhil Poojary, Wedson Anselme, Lalrindika Ralte, Robin Singh, Willis Plaza

Mohun Bagan: Debjit Majumder, Pritam Kotal, Eduardo Ferreira, Anas Edathodika, Subhasish Bose, Pronay Halder, Bikramjit Singh, Katsumi Yusa, Darryl Duffy, Sony Norde, Jeje Lalpekhlua