Bhaichung Bhutia: The I-League will come back to Kolkata

Mohun Bagan or East Bengal will win the I-league - Bhutia (1:35)

Former India footballer Baichung Bhutia talks to Debayan Sen after the 0-0 draw between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in their I-league fixture (1:35)

It was goalless in Siliguri as table-toppers East Bengal couldn't break through a stern Mohun Bagan defence to consolidate their position at the top of the table. Despite the stalemate, former India captain and all-time top goalscorer in the Kolkata derby Bhaichung Bhutia, who was present at the stadium, believes the I-League title will return to Kolkata after Bengaluru FC won it last season.

"I think from the way it looks, it will be either Mohun Bagan or East Bengal [as champion]," said Bhutia, speaking to ESPN in Siliguri on Sunday.

Bhutia, who has represented both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in multiple stints and even led the latter in the derby, believed that the game couldn't live up to the hype as both teams went in with a cautious mind-set.

"They came to the field not wanting to lose, and you could see that," he said. "Sometimes derbies are very interesting when one team that comes in must win and the other has to defend. When both teams are doing well and they want to play it safe, it is not the usual kind of derby."

Coming into the game, East Bengal were leading the points table with 19 points from seven games while Mohun Bagan were on second with 16 points, but with a game in hand. Considering the situation, Bhaichung believes both teams played "safe" and were content with the result.

"Both the teams played it safe, and I think both teams are really happy with one point," he said.

Bhaichung also touched upon India's chances at the 2019 Asian Cup and the current situation in the India under-17 camp after the sacking of Nicolai Adam months before the U-17 World Cup.

Bhutia, who was a member of the Indian team when they played at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, believes that Stephen Constantine's team has a good chance to qualify for the 2019 event, following their draw in Group A which will pit them against Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau, with two teams assured qualification for the quadrennial event.

"It's not a bad draw, but it is also not an easy draw as well. But looking at the other teams, I think it's a good draw."

On the search for a new coach for the U-17 team, Bhutia, who heads the All India Football Federation's technical committee, said that the process is still on. "We're looking for a new coach. It [the impact of the World Cup on Indian football] is going to be big, and it's unfortunate what happened (with Nicolai Adam, who was recently let go as the Under-17 coach), but hopefully now we can get a new coach and sort it out and move forward."