Last edition runners-up side East Bengal will begin their I-League campaign against Real Kashmir Football Club here on Wednesday.
A title eluded East Bengal last season as, in spite of defeating Gokulam Kerala 2-1 on the last day of competitions, they fell one point shy of eventual champions Chennai City FC.
Under the guidance of head coach Alejandro Menendez, the red-and-gold brigade drew with Real Kashmir at home and scored a victory in Srinagar last season and this will give them a psychological advantage before they start their season.
The Kalyani Municipality Stadium will serve as the home venue of both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan except for the two derby matches.
“Speaking before the match, Menendez said, “Real Kashmir are a very solid and strong side, their defence is very compact. We are very well aware that they are a very competitive outfit. The onus now lies on us, we need to be really accurate and sharp whenever we have the chance to attack.
“We need to perform well in this match to enhance our chances and to get success in the league. Otherwise, things can get tricky towards the end of the season. I believe it is going to be a very tough game,” he added.
Real Kashmir, on the other hand, had a dream season last year. They became the first-ever team from Kashmir to play in the I-League and were title contenders at one point of time. Real Kashmir finally finished third with 37 points from 20 games.
All eyes will be on the marquee player and head coach David Robertson’s son, Mason Lee Robertson who possesses the ability to play in different positions.
The Srinagar-based team is also bolstered with the inclusion of former NEROCA FC striker Singham Subash Singh and winger Kallum Michael Higginbotham, the fresh transfer from Scottish Championship side Dunfermline Athletic Football Club.
Coach Robertson said, “Last season, we had a good season and defended well and had a very good defensive record. This season we have added more firepower and hope to score more goals this season.
“East Bengal are a very tough side to play against they are stronger than last season also. I think they will be one of the strongest teams this season and one who can win the championship.”