Kolkata Derby Special: The Tactical Breakdown

Saturday, 11 February 2017|Abhishek Mukherjee

The day of reckoning has arrived; the first Kolkata Derby of the 2017 I-League is upon us as Kingfisher East Bengal play host to their eternal rivals, Mohun Bagan at the Kanchenjunga Stadium, Siliguri on Sunday (12 Feb).

East Bengal go into the derby with 19 points from 7 games, whereas their cross city rivals, Mohun Bagan have garnered 16 points from 6 games. Both teams are yet to taste defeat in this ongoing edition of the I-League, a feat both sides will like to preserve.

Recent Form
Both teams have enjoyed a rich vein of form and go into this derby oozing with confidence.

Predicted Lineups

East Bengal

East Bengal will be playing their signature 4-4-2 diamond formation with Plaza and Robin Singh spearheading the attack. Mehtab Hossain will be returning to the starting XI after missing out on their last encounter with Chennai City FC due to suspension.


Mohun Bagan
Mohun Bagan also won't be tinkering with their 4-4-2 formation. Bagan will be boosted by the availability of their Brazilian born defender Eduardo Ferreira. However, there are question marks looming over his match fitness as he last featured against DSK Shivajians on January 24th. Haitian talisman, Sony Norde also returns to the squad after missing out on the last I-League encounter against Aizawl FC. He starred for Bagan in the midweek AFC Cup preliminary round encounter against Colombo FC and will again look to be the difference maker between the two sides.

Head To Head (I-League)
Both teams have locked horns 38 times in the I-League. East Bengal have reigned supreme 15 times compared to Bagan, who have won 11. The teams could not be separated on 12 occasions.

East Bengal are also ahead of their cross-city rivals in the goal-scoring department, netting 43 goals compared to the 33 scored by Mohun Bagan.

Battle of the Masterminds

Trevor James Morgan vs Sanjoy Sen
Both managers will be looking for the illusive three points in the derby but would not be too disappointed if both teams shared spoils. Since this is the first derby of the season, both managers would primarily like to survive and fight another day. Both Morgan and Sen are aware of the burden of expectations on their shoulders and very well know that a derby loss can have a devastating effects on their side.

Under Morgan, East Bengal have been playing possession based football, but haven’t exactly sent the pulses racing. However, they always manage to grind a favourable result.

Sanjoy Sen's team, on the other hand, are not shy to play long ball football. The main creativity of Bagan lies in the wings and the wingers are being constantly fed long diagonal balls.

Analyzing The Defences

Mohun Bagan's shaky defence is Sanjoy Sen's main area of concern, even though the stats tell a different story. Statistics show that Bagan have conceded just 3 goals in their 6 I-League matches but in reality their defence has been shoddy and failed to inspire confidence. Crippled with injuries to his first choice defenders, Sanjoy Sen had to tinker with Bagan's defensive pairing every third match. However, Eduardo's return will be a big boost for Bagan as he is Bagan's best bet to contain the lethal East Bengal attack. It will also be a big test for Anas Edathodika and Subhasish Bose, who will be making their derby debut.

East Bengal, on the other hand, have a well settled defence with the towering Ivan Bukenya at the heart of it. Unlike Bagan, East Bengal have no such injury concerns in defence. However, East Bengal's main vulnerability lies in the wing back position. Both Narayan Das and Rahul Bheke are comfortable overlapping forward and joining the attack but have been vulnerable at the back. Bheke's inability to cope up with nippy wingers was exposed by Prasanth Karuthadathkuni in East Bengal's last match and was substituted at half time.

Analyzing The Midfields

Two midfield lineups offer two different types of control, two different approaches to the game.
While East Bengal look to flood the midfield with players, allowing Mehtab to dictate tempo, Didika to move the ball forward and Wedson to roam between the lines, Mohun Bagan are trying to conjure something else.

With Jeje, Duffy concentrating on the final third of the pitch, Mohun Bagan usually look for recognizable and easy patterns – aggressive and solid midfield line that enables them to take the ball and catch the opponent in transition with long passes towards the running winger – Norde or Yusa.

Analyzing The Forward Lines

Both the teams are equally good when it comes to their forward line. East Bengal's target man Robin Singh complements the pacey dribbler, Willis Plaza well. Both these strikers have a lethal left foot, something which the Bagan defenders should remember this Sunday.

Mohun Bagan's Duffy and Jeje are typical poachers, always lurking at the edge of the box waiting to pounce on the opposition. What makes them lethal is their ability to finish off half chances. What they lack in pace, they make up for it with their finishing.

Both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan's strength lies in their attack. While East Bengal will be relying on their star turned duo of Plaza and Wedson to weave magic, Bagan's Norde, Jeje and Duffy will have some ideas of their own.

The main weakness of the two sides are their defence which has looked vulnerable at times but the opposition have failed to capitalize. However, it might not be the case on Sunday as both sets of strikers will be ready to pounce on any defensive mistake.

The other aspect Trevor James Morgan will have to work upon is the gap created between the midfield and the attack. When Wedson marches into attack a giant void is created at the centre of the park between him and Mehtab Hossain, leaving East Bengal vulnerable to counter attacks.

Mohun Bagan have a different sort of problem at the center of the park. Both Sehnaj Singh and Pronay Halder are good defensive midfielders with excellent tackling ability but when it comes to creativity these lads aren't much of an architect. These combustible elements will also have to maintain their composure in the high voltage match on Sunday.

Key Battles

Norde vs Bheke -
Probably the most important tussle on the pitch will be Norde vs Bheke. Sony Norde is Mohun Bagan's main creative outlet and if he is contained, like in the DSK game, half of East Bengal's job will be done. However, Bheke will be devoid of confidence after a disastrous outing against Chennai City FC.

Duffy vs Bukenya - The towering Bukenya will be in charge of containing the Scottish striker. Given Bukenya's height, he definitely has the aerial advantage over Duffy, but Duffy being a wily old fox would know exactly what to do against East Bengal's defensive wall.

Plaza vs Eduardo - Much has been said on paper and social media about this encounter on the pitch. Eduardo and Plaza's agent Stephen Abarowei had an ugly altercation on social media where Stephen declared that Plaza would teach a "footballing lesson" to Eduardo. So the stakes are higher than ever and this will be a battle for pride. However, given Plaza's form it will be a tough ask for Eduardo as he is yet to settle at the heart of the Bagan defence.

Wedson vs Anas/Sehnaj- Haitian, Wedson Anselme will be a nightmare to contain for the Bagan defence. Operating mainly between opposition's defence and midfield line, his hold-up play can create tremors in the Bagan defence.

Some Interesting Facts:
1. This is the third derby match that will be played in Siliguri.

2. Sanjoy Sen has won just 1 of the 5 derbies in charge of Bagan.

3. Trevor Morgan has lost just 2 derbies out of the 12 derbies in charge against Mohun Bagan.

4. Mohun Bagan played without a coach in the second half of the derby match held in Siliguri last season.

5. Last 2 derby matches in Siliguri has seen just 5 goals. East Bengal scored 3, whereas Bagan scored 2.

6. East Bengal are unbeaten in the last 4 derby matches. (Including the CFL walkover)

FeverPitch 's Prediction: 1-1
Both teams would not want to risk losing the match, so expect a cagey encounter this Sunday.