Bhubaneswar: Neck and neck in the Group A points table, arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant and East Bengal FC are set to battle each other for one spot in the Kalinga Super Cup 2024 semi-final here at the Kalinga Stadium on Friday.
The two teams with a history of a century-old rivalry have six points each and are also level on goal difference (+2), but East Bengal have the slight edge on goals scored, which means a draw will do for Carles Cuadrat’s side as they chase their first semi-final appearance in the Kalinga Super Cup since the inaugural edition in 2018.
However, the Spaniard stated that his team are only fighting for a win. “Both teams must be very motivated. We know in football that when you’re looking for a draw, you finally end up losing the game. So, for us, it’s about winning. No question about that.” said Cuadrat in the pre-match press conference.
East Bengal forward Cleiton Silva agreed with his coach’s words. “We cannot go for a draw, we must win the game. It’s always interesting to play a derby. It’s a big game, the biggest game in India. I’m happy to be a part of it,” said the Brazilian.
There are changes on and off the pitch regarding this particular derby. Both teams are missing Indian players who are a part of the national team at the ongoing AFC Asian Cup. It’s also going to be the first Kolkata Derby in Odisha since the 2017 Federation Cup semi-final in Cuttack, where Mohun Bagan ran out 2-0 winners.
Friday’s meeting is set to be the third Kolkata Derby of the season. While East Bengal edged Mohun Bagan SG 1-0 in the Durand Cup group stage, the Mariners ultimately had the last laugh, defeating their arch-rivals in the final with the same scoreline. But the scenario is different in the Kalinga Super Cup. With just one team progressing to the semi-final, the losers go home tomorrow.
“We know the significance of this match, not just in terms of the derby but, more importantly, in terms of a semi-final spot. That’s the most important thing,” said Mohun Bagan SG coach Clifford Miranda.
“It’s my first Derby, so I’m excited, yes. But how much pressure we put on ourselves depends on how we feel. For me, it’s just another game where I need to do my job as a coach and the players need to do theirs. Ideally, we would’ve wanted to have our full-strength squad, but whoever is playing is giving their 100 percent,” added the former India international.
Accompanying Miranda in the press conference was defender Brendan Hamill. “From our perspective, it’s a game that we love to play and don’t need any extra motivation for. I’ve been fortunate enough to play a few derbies and I know what it means for the fans. It’s very exciting, it’s the first match you look for when the calendar comes out. There’s a chance to win silverware and qualify for a spot in Asia,” said the Australian.