East Bengal eye I-League turnaround against Aizawl (Preview)

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Aizawl, March 11 (IANS) East Bengal will be desperate to reverse their two-match losing trend and revive their diminishing I-League fortunes against hosts Aizawl FC here on Saturday.

East Bengal’s chequered form has been their biggest impediment in their hopes of winning the football tournament.

They collected momentum after the arrival of former French international Bernard Mendy, winning three consecutive matches to rub shoulders with tournament favourites Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC. Some pundits even dubbed them co-favourites as the race began to heat up.

But since then they have been derailed in two matches, losing 0-2 away against last boys DSK Shivajians and 1-3 against a struggling Salgaocar, leaving them third with 17 points from 10 matches.

The twin defeats left them with a mountain to climb as they trail leaders Mohun Bagan by five points with six matches left to be played. Second-placed Bengaluru also have 22 but have played a game more. Aizawl lie seventh with nine points from 10 matches.

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More than the margin, the nature of defeat has disappointed the East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya and the expectant fans more.

They lacked cohesiveness on the pitch and presented heartless efforts against the two bottom-most teams in the league, shocking the team contingent.

The problem lies in every department with the defence being a picture of wobbliness, midfielders chasing shadows of their opponents and frustrated attackers forced to fend for themselves, managing very few scoring opportunities.

To compound the creases in the forehead of Bhattacharya was the form of his team’s foreigners.

Veteran defender Bello Rassaq has been a pale shadow of himself after his much-publicised switch from Mohun Bagan at the beginning of the season.

His partnership with India international Arnab Mandal has been anything but assured leaving Bhattacharya to contemplate fielding Mendy beside Rassaq.

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Mendy himself has been criticised for his poor fitness levels and apparent immobility at the centre of the pitch. Nigerian striker Ranty Martins, their best frontman, has been starved of ball supply, leaving him frustrated at the final third.

But the bewildering mystery in the team has been South Korean midfielder Do Dong-hyun’s fall from grace.

He announced his arrival with a magical brace against Mohun Bagan in a 4-0 rout in the Calcutta Football League at the start of the season but since then has faded into oblivion to the point that he wasn’t even included in the 18-man squad for two matches.

Bhattacharya is under pressure to galvanise a disorganised and demotivated bunch of players and only a win on Saturday can glue up the faltering outfit.

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