Kolkata: Already three of their top players injured, East Bengal will not risk further and field a second string side when they face table leaders Johor Darul Ta’Zim in the penultimate league round of the AFC Cup football tournament here on Tuesday.
It is a gamble that paid off in their last outing against relatively weaker Balestier Khalsa FC as East Bengal had blanked the Singapore outfit 3-0.
The result meant East Bengal had climbed past BKFC to the third spot in the four-team group F table but against the reigning Malaysia Super League champions it may backfire.
East Bengal coach Eelco Schattorie is trying to be realistic and has given up hope on advancing to the knock out stage.
It’s an improbable task as they have to win their remainder two matches which includes one against Kitchee in Hong Kong.
“My biggest fear is to get more injuries so I will play mainly with my second team. I am going to try to win but my priority will be on the I-League,” East Bengal’s Dutch coach said about the injuries to Saumik Dey, Milan Susak and Leo Bertos.
“It’s a difficult decision…You always want to perform at the highest level. But I had to look for the bigger picture. Theoretically, we can still qualify but realistically it’s difficult.”
Schattorie further said he did not want to derail their campaign in the I-League where they are placed fourth with five matches left.
“If I put out my strongest team and if we get an injury, that will derail my I-League campaign. The wisest thing to do at this moment is to give more importance to the I-League.”
East Bengal will start with Baldeep Singh who had struck the opening goal in their win over Balestier Khalsa FC as Ranti Martins and Dudu Omagbemi may start on the bench.
To East Bengal’s advantage, JDT will be without a head coach after the team management had fired Bojan Hodak in a recent development.
The team will play under assistant coach Ismail Ibrahim as it remains to be seen how the players cope up to the change and also the artificial playing surface at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
East Bengal were thrashed 1-4 in the first leg match against JDT and their assistant coach Ibrahim they have come here to win.
“We have a full strength side and we have come here to get full points.”