I-League: In-form East Bengal have task cut out vs leaders Chennai (Preview)
Kolkata : On-song East Bengal will have their task cut out when they take on Chennai City FC in an I-League encounter at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Tuesday.
Both teams are unbeaten so far with the hosts recording two wins out of two against Neroca FC and Shillong Lajong in the hills, while the visitors have surprised one and all by winning two out of their three games so far.
East Bengal are second in the points table with six points from two matches.
Chennai, who are top of the table with seven points from three games, got the better of Indian Arrows and Gokulam Kerala, while eking out a 2-2 draw against Churchill Brothers.
In their last game, Chennai rode on I-League's current highest goal-scorer Pedro Javier Manzi's brace to beat Gokulam but were dealt a body blow when the Spanish centre-forward was substituted after he suffered a hamstring injury.
"Manzi is not sure whether he will start the the game. We have to see if he can play tomorrow. We will conduct some physical tests and take the call. Injury just below hamstring," Chennai coach Akbar Nawaz told reporters on the eve of the match.
Nawas will hope that his other attacking players like Jesus Nestor and Sandro step up and fill the void left by Manzi.
In Manzi's absence, the onus will be on Nestor to create scoring chances and as well find the back of the net at the same time.
He has been scoring and also doing his job to create as many chances as he can which has made him one of the early favourites among the Chennai City faithful.
He will be expected to combine with Sandro and allow Ameeruddin upfront enough space to exploit.
For the hosts, Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda and Jobby Justin have looked good and will be expected to fire on all cylinders on Tuesday as well.
Esqueda has been involved in the three goals out of the five his team has scored so far, scoring twice himself and setting up Joby in the two games.
Syrian playmaker Mahmoud Al-Amna is still not match-fit and is likely to miss the game. The resilient duo of Borja Gomez Peres and Johnny Acosta will be responsible for containing the lethal Chennai City attacking front.
"Al Amna is slowly recovering. We can't speak more than that," East Bengal's Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez said.
East Bengal are playing at home for the first time this season and Menendez urged supporters to come in numbers and rally behind the red and golds.
"After these two matches the team has good confidence. We are expecting to win the home match. We expect the fans to come in numbers. We have to win the game.
Asked about Chennai's pole position in the points table, Menendez said they have some good Spanish players and would be a handful.
"The position in the table is not important. Important is that we will fight for three points. We have to win all the matches. They have good players, some good Spanish players. I have seen them play a very strong side. We are thinking match by match."
Nawaz added that despite their good start Chennai cannot be complacent and have to be careful against East Bengal who are also in red hot form.
"East Bengal have a rich history. Especially being a home game they will try to win. They have won two matches, they will try to continue the momentum. We have to be careful," Nawaz said.
"For us we should not get overconfident. In football everything changes very fast. We are a new team. One game at a time. We will try to win tomorrow," the Singaporean coach added.