Srinagar: I-league debutantes Real Kashmir will face their toughest test so far in the top-flight when they lock horns with Mohun Bagan, a club with some pedigree, in a mid-table clash here Tuesday.
Both teams have played three games so far.
Mohun Bagan is one of three unbeaten teams in the league and are lying fifth while Real Kashmir are at seventh with four points. Both teams have rapturous support all around and it promises to be a battle of attrition in cold climes.
For the visitors, there would not be a better time to test some untested resources, given Kashmir have not looked like routing sides even at home yet. Youngsters like Azharduddin Mallick, William Lalnunfela and Shilton Dsilva, for example, have hardly got game time.
Abinash Ruidas has also been drafted in recently and coach Sankarlal Chakraborty will be tempted to use more of his young resources at this stage of the league than be caught unaware at critical junctures later. Either Dalraj Singh or Amey Ranawade can also be played at defence.
Sankarlal, however, did not appear to be planning to take any chances saying before the game, “The way Kashmir played the last game was really good. They have a good combination of both Indian and foreign players. Their defenders, midfielders are very strong. We hope we put up a good game against them and win the three points.”
The forward line of Mohun Bagan with Cameroonian Dipanda Dicka and Ugandan Henry Kisseka remains lethal. To add to that the flair of Pintu Mahata and the possibility of Sony Norde joining the attack at any stage, will keep the host’s chief strategist David Robertson wary throughout the game.
“Hopefully, we find a balance between the game and the weather. I think we have played good enough in our last match. The biggest achievement for me is that Kashmiri people are coming to support us and are enjoying the environment,” opined the former Aberdeen and Queens Park Rangers man in a pre-game chat.
Scotsman Robertson has to make his team believe that they can score without over-dependence on Ivorian target man Gnohere Krizo. He will have to energise the likes of Danish Farooque and Farhan Ganie to put in better shifts in order to convert the possession they have been enjoying into results.
The centre-backs Loveday Okechukwu and Mason Robertson might want to do better with their height coming forward in set-pieces.
Kashmir also have the opportunity to test some of their untested reserves. The likes of Nadong Bhutia, who scored a bunch of goals in Kashmir’s winning campaign in the second division last season is yet to get a game and there is talent in midfield with Nagem Tamang, Surchandra Singh and Shahnawaz Bashir warming the benches so far.
Kashmir are going to stay at home for a while now and it would be ideal to get as many players to get a taste of playing big teams before tougher assignments away.
Robertson said, “Mohun Bagan are a strong team and we hope to create more chances against them. The problem will arise if we don’t create chances. The more chances we create, the more we have the opportunity to score. If we continue to play the game the way we are playing, we hope we can win.”
Mohun Bagan look the better side on paper, but given the alien conditions and the grit that Kashmir have shown so far, it is likely to be a close game in front of a packed crowd.—PTI