Kolkata: An upbeat East Bengal will look to build on their derby win and further cut the gap on league leaders Chennai City FC, when they take on Neroca FC in a crunch I-League encounter here on Thursday.
East Bengal, who breezed past arch-rivals Mohun Bagan 2-0 to stay in the hunt for the title, are placed fourth in the points table with 25 points, five adrift of Chennai. Neroca, in fifth spot, are also on 25 points and will come into the tie on the back of a nail-biting 3-2 win over Indian Arrows.
The hosts, under Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez, would like to believe that they are peaking at the right time. The club can finally avail the services of all their six foreigners. Enrique Esqueda has come back from his rib injury just before the derby and now the Mexican forward is fully fit to feature in Alejandro’s starting lineup.
“From now until the end of the season, all of our matches will be very difficult. This is a very good team and we will try to win this match. We need to get a strong start,” Menendez said on the eve of the match.
“It is a new match and we need three points to continue to remain in the title race. We are taking it match-by-match. We will see what happens in the next games. For our focus is on tomorrow’s (Thursday) game,” said the Spaniard.
The Spanish coach might make a change in the starting XI which defeated Mohun Bagan in their last game. Esqueda is likely to partner Jobby Justin in the front. If Esqueda comes in then Jaime Santos, another hero from the derby, might move to the left flank relegating Toni Dovale to the bench.
Menendez expressed his disappointment over the scheduling of the I-League games as the red and gold brigade take on Real Kashmir in another important clash in Srinagar on Sunday, three days after their home tie against Neroca.