HERO I-LEAGUE: East Bengal face Churchill hurdle in race for top spot

Kolkata, February 16, 2019: In-form Quess East Bengal (QEB) play Churchill Brothers FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) on Sunday in a crucial 12th Hero I-League game.

The Red & Golds will keep an eye on league leaders Chennai City FC, who are just three points ahead of them. Chennai has played a game more.

The game is crucial for Churchill who is at fourth. A win on Sunday would catapult them to second as the league enters a crucial phase.

The hosts eked out an impressive odd-goal win against the Goan outfit in the first leg game the previous year. Given how QEB beat Shillong Lajong 5-0 in the previous game, Churchill will be wary of the home team’s form.

Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez Garcia got the best out of QEB’s Indian and foreign players. He has used the squad judiciously throughout the campaign.

Garcia’s team is the only in the 11-team league to have an Indian player as top-scorer. Jobby Justin’s nine goals make him numero uno in the goal scorer’s list. Laldanmawia Ralte scored seven goals and is second best in QEB’s scoring charts.

Garcia said this at the pre-game press conference: “Churchill Brothers is a difficult team. This team has always been close to the top of the table and they score very easily which is very dangerous for our team. I prepare to win matches and if I prepare something for defence, then it will not be for one player. It will be for defending against the team and to avoid the opponent getting chances. We have our plan to win against Churchill Brothers and not against Plaza or anyone individually.”

Churchill endured a shock-loss to bottom-placed Shillong Lajong at home. It may come to haunt them as the league reaches its business end.

They have had two standout contributors this season. Trinidadian striker Willis Deon Plaza has notched up a phenomenal 17 goals in as many games. He was scoring at will at one stage of the campaign!

Skipper Dawda Cessay has been the other standout player. His nine assists are the most by any player in the league. As revealed by their coach, his absence will be a big blow for Churchill.

Churchill’s Romanian coach Petre Gigui had this to say: “Tomorrow’s match is not a do or die match for us. We will be fighting like every other game but it will be difficult. It is not the same atmosphere because we have lost many points in the last three games. Maybe the pressure was too much and at the same time we don’t have the complete first 11 players – Eldor, Ceesay, Mohanraj, Richard Costa – they are all injured and won’t be playing tomorrow. Tomorrow we will be playing against a very good team. They have good players and very good foreigners too. Plus their spectators’ support will be there because the people in Kolkata love their football.”

Expect a cracker at the VYBK on Sunday!

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