A resurgent East Bengal will look for its first AFC Cup win this season when it takes on Singapore’s Balestier Khalsa in a Group E league match under lights at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Tuesday.
East Bengal, which rose to the fifth spot in the I-League with back-to-back away wins against Kalyani Bharat FC and Pune FC, has lost two and drawn one in the continental league so far and is placed at the bottom of the four-team group. Its only point was gained from the draw against Kitchee FC of Hong Kong in its last home outing on March 10.
Seeing his team’s chances diminish, East Bengal’s Dutch coach Eelco Schattorie appeared to play down the importance of the upcoming encounter saying he will prefer to rest his two Nigerian strikers Dudu Omagbemi and Ranti Martins as they have played a lot of intense football in the last few days.
“I am looking for a wholesale change in the team and hope the combination works well to get the first win of the tournament,” Schattorie said.
The Dutchman, who took over the reins of East Bengal from Armando Colaco earlier this season, has been insisting on players’ fitness, which he says is the reason the team is unable to realise its potential.
“A team flourishes when there is good competition among the players for a spot in the eleven. Hence, I would like to try new combinations,” Schattorie said.
Given the coach’s thinking, East Bengal is likely to field Baljit Sahni and Baldeep Singh upfront while making some changes in the midfield where the likes of Mehtab Hossain and Harmanjot Khabra may be rested.
The visiting team will take heart from its 2-1 win over East Bengal, its only win so far in the league, when it hosted the latter on March 17.
The visitors lost their other two matches and is third with three points.
“This match is very important to us and we need to win it to sustain the hopes of booking a knockout berth,” said head coach Marko Kraljevic.
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