I-League: Under-fire East Bengal look to steady ship against Gokulam
Under-fire East Bengal will be desperate to snap a three-game losing streak when they take on resurgent Gokulam Kerala FC in an I-League encounter at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Saturday.
The home team lost to defending champions Minerva Punjab FC in their last encounter, making it three losses on the trot and are languishing in eighth place in the points table with just six points from five games.
With the Kolkata derby against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan slated on December 16, Alejandro Menendez's boys will be desperate to get back to their winning ways.
Coach Menendez remained defiant on the eve of the match, saying his team is doing well and he is happy with its performance.
"The team is training really well. We have analysed all the matches and reviewed all the small mistakes. The team is doing well but we have some mistakes we will rectify.
"We started well in the I-League and won difficult away matches. I already said that I am happy with the performance of the team," he told reporters.
The city giants have been extremely poor with their midfield in shambles. The Spanish coach has used a total of eight players in midfield but he is yet to find the perfect combination even after five matches.
Menendez is expected to ring in a host of changes in the starting lineup ahead of the Gokulam match.
Kamalpreet Singh, who has under-performed in all the five matches in a makeshift position as a central midfielder, is likely to be replaced by Prakash Sarkar who came on as a substitute against Minerva.
Laldanmawia Ralte and Lalrindika Ralte are likely to start on the flanks.
Much to the club and their fans' relief, their sixth foreigner, Jaime Santos Colado, has arrived.
"Jaime just arrived on Wednesday. He may play some minutes tomorrow. But overall he is ready to play matches; no problem in that," the coach said.
Asked about the reason for the spate of defeats, he added: "Sometimes it is difficult to know the exact reason for the defeats. This is a great ground and stadium. Maybe some players are under pressure but they will overcome this I am sure."
Coming to the visitors, Gokulam came back strongly by registering two wins and a draw in their last three matches after a poor start to the campaign.
Placed fifth in the points table with nine points from six matches, the Malabarians, under the tutelage of experienced Indian coach Bino George, have displayed quality with their young Indian recruits playing well.
The likes of Rajesh S, Arjun Jayaraj, Gani Ahmed Nigam have done well so far and they will fancy their chances on the morrow.
My players are young and they will give their best. Not thinking about the opponents," coach Bino George said.
Gokulam were dealt with a blow when star striker Antonio German left the club on Wednesday citing personal reasons.
We don't have stars in our team. It is a team game and we can play without German," coach George added.-IANS