Panchkhula, Dec 18 (IANS) Defending Champions Minerva Punjab will take on former champions Mohun Bagan at Tau Devi Lal Stadium here on Wednesday.
Both teams have found the going tough in the current season, with the champions finding goals hard to come by while Mohun Bagan are failing to cross the line in their matches.
As a result, Minerva find themselves in the fifth place on the points table with 12 points from eight games while the Kolkata giants have played a game less for their nine points and are in the eighth position.
The champions have bolstered their squad along the way with Irish coach Paul Munster obviously looking to plug gaps. They have brought in Nigerians Bala Dahir and Donatus Edafe as well as Ivorian Kouassi Kouame to strengthen their midfield and attack.
Japanese striker Yu Kuboki also started his first game in Minerva’s previous encounter against Chennai City after not featuring in any of their first seven games due to injury. Colombian defender Jorge Ivan Caicedo Rodriguez is their latest signing to beef up the defence.
Minerva clearly start favourites given they have notched up two wins in their last three games while Bagan have lost two and drawn one going into Tuesday’s game.
Paul Munster seemed to suggest just that on the eve of the match. He said: “This game is massive. In our last game we got a clean sheet. This is where we have to take our chances. In our last game we got many chances but now we have to convert them.
“We can’t say anything about the result. We just have to look forward. This game is all about the better team who will win the game. It’s a massive game for us,” said Munster.
Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, have been having injury woes with star winger Sony Norde of Haiti missing out on the ‘Kolkata Derby’ loss against arch-rivals Quess East Bengal in the last game. Talented young winger Pintu Mahata has also been sidelined due to injury and so has Sukhdev Singh, the former Minerva defender whose recruitment was cleared recently.
Coach Sankarlal betrayed signs of both desperation and frustration on the match-day eve, when he said: “We won’t say that we are not playing good. We are playing well but not being able to gather three points. We are trying our level best. Yes, we have lost two-three but the team mentally and physically are active,” said Sankarlal.
“When the team travels there is a mental impact. We have come here to collect three points and we have to get three points anyhow. Mohun Bagan is always charged up for new challenges. Kudos to Minerva for playing great football in the last few matches,” he said.
Minerva have conceded just five but also scored just six. Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, have scored nine but conceded 10 and are going to miss their defensive bulwark Eze Kingsley on Wednesday, as the Nigerian was sent off for a second bookable offence against arch-rivals East Bengal on Sunday.
Their only silver lining being two-time Hero I-League top scorer Dipanda Dicka being in form with four goals so far including a super strike against the Red and Golds.
It will be the Cameroonian Dicka against the miserly Minerva defence on one hand, while a wobbly Mohun Bagan defence will try to keep a bolstered Minerva attack at bay. All in all, an absorbing encounter on the cards.