Despite being two historical clubs, there have been only two meetings in the I-League era largely due to Mohammedan Sporting's absence from the top flight and both encounters ended all square. The sides played out a draw earlier in the season also but that was a local league clash.
Due to their games in hand, East Bengal still have a realistic chance of challenging for the title but they are on a five-match winless streak in all competitions and have picked up just two points from their three fixtures after the I-League break. Their last I-League game ended in a disappointing 1-1 stalemate with archrivals Mohun Bagan as they failed to secure maximum points despite taking the lead in the first half.
Coach Armando Colaco admitted after the game that winning the title will be very difficult now but they have had lot of time to prepare for this clash as they were not in action at the weekend. The red-and-gold brigade have already dropped 22 points after 14 matches and have their work cut out against a Mohammedan Sporting side that has drawn all three I-League Kolkata derbies this campaign.
But Mohammedan Sporting's I-League status is not safe at all and weekend's results saw them return to the bottom two. This is their game in hand over a couple of immediate rivals and thus Sanjoy Sen's side can't afford to drop any more points. The black and whites could only manage a goalless draw with Mohun Bagan last Saturday and that result means Mohammedan Sporting have picked up just four points from their last five I-League outings.
"I think 26 points will be enough. However we are not worried about relegation at all," Sen, whose team is currently on 17 points from as many games, was quoted as saying.
Sen would be hoping for the same confidence from his players but fatigue could be a factor as this will be their second game in three days and physically they had to give a lot on Saturday.
East Bengal will be looking to make the most of their freshness but this promises to be another closely-fought local derby with both sides desperate for three points.
(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)