With focus firmly fixed on I-League derby against East Bengal on April 9, Mohun Bagan in all likelihood will field their second string go easy against their Bangladesh’s Abahani in their AFC Cup Group E league match on Tuesday.
Fresh from their title hopes reviving 3-0 win over reigning champions Bengaluru FC in their 13th round league encounter, Mohun Bagan’s next big stop is in Siliguri where they face bitter-foes East Bengal in the return leg clash April 9.
They go on to play two more matches on the road — April 12 (Shillong) and 15 (Minerva Punjab in Ludhiana) before resuming the AFC Cup April 19 at home against Maziya Sports & Recreation (Maldives) as they have a packed calendar ahead.
“We have to overcome adversities. We have been able to overcome the obstacles, be it the flights between AFC Cup games and I-League games or be it the international break,” Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen about their jam-packed itinerary.
With their priority on the I-League where they are three points behind Aizawl with a game in hand, Sen may opt to give their key players some much-deserved rest.
Sony Norde created three assists to hand them their win over Bengaluru as it remains to be seen whether the Haitian starts tomorrow along with captain Katsumi Yusa who struck a double two days ago.
Mohun Bagan squandered their lead to lose their AFC Cup group E opener in Bengaluru March 14 while their Abahani too faced with a similar fate going down 0-2 to the Maldives Premier League champions.
The five-time Bangladesh Premier League champions who did a double winning the Federation Cup are struggling to return to winning ways with coach Drago Mamic.
The Dhanmondi-based outfit became champions of Federation Cup and BPL under coach George Kottan.
But with former Churchill coach Mamic they have struggled to replicate their show, finishing with a wooden spoon in the Sheikh Kamal International Cup last month.
They are missing two key foreigners Sunday Chizoba and Lee Tuck and have roped in Samad Youssif, Emeka Darlington and David Jonathan.
28-year-old Nigerian Darlington earlier played for Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi along with Norde as the two players will be seen in different colours this time.
Darlington will be seen alongside former Cardiff City forward Jonathan Brown as ‘Sky Blues’ would hope the duo to come good in their bid to make the knockout stage for the first time in four appearances.
They are likely to miss Ghanaian defender Youssif because of Visa hurdles as Nasiruddin Chowdhury may take his place at the heart of their five-man backline.
“In a sense, Mohun Bagan and we are on same position, as they also conceded defeat in their first match like us but they have the advantage of playing at home ground and in front of home crowds. Nothing is impossible, but the boys would have to perform,” Abahani football manager Satyajit Das Rupu said.
“If you play with full dominance for a 90-minute game but fail to score and concede goal, it has no meaning to play better, what happened in our first match against Maziya.
“You have to score to win the match against Mohun Bagan. Players were briefed details about their mistakes of the previous match, if they will not repeat the mistakes and will not blunder in front of goal-mouth, we can expect to return with three points.