City heavyweights East Bengal, boosted by the presence of their newest recruit Frenchman Bernard Mendy, will look to getting back to winning ways when they take on newcomers Aizawl FC in an I-League encounter at the Barasat Stadium here on Friday.
Both teams have lost their respective previous encounters. Bengaluru edged past East Bengal 1-0 while Aizawl lost 0-2 to Sporting Clube de Goa. But containing East Bengal in front of a vociferous home crowd would be a very tough challenge that awaits Aizawl.
Mendy watched the Bengaluru game from the guest enclosure at the Salt Lake Stadium and he will be raring to go out there and prove that he is worth every penny of the amount that East Bengal shelled out to rope him in.
Presently East Bengal are at the fourth spot on the league table with eight points while the visitors are seventh with four points. If East Bengal grab all three points on Friday, they would go second on the points table ahead of arch-rivals Mohun Bagan.
Aizawl’s work rate and pace have been fantastic in the league so far, but they have failed to capitalise on their opportunities. Aizawl coach Manuel Fraile and his men would know East Bengal may be a very good side but defensively they have been loose on occasions. Fraile would precisely want to exploit the weakness and would look to strike the hosts on the counters.
At the other end, though, what would be giving Aizawl nightmares is the fact that forwards like Do Dong-Hyun and Ranti Martins have been brilliant for the hosts. The latter has four goals from five games so far. Ably feeding them upfront has been Bikash Jairu who has suddenly exploded into form after the Indian Super League.
East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya would very well know of Aizawl’s pace. He would look to have his best defenders, Arnab Mondal and Bello Rasaq from the start. But his main concern will be in which position to play Mendy.