SC East Bengal Renew Rivalry with ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata Derby

Margao, January 28: SC East Bengal, looking to bounce back from the disappointing loss to Hyderabad FC, will take on arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan at the Fatorda stadium in the second Kolkata Derby of this season’s Hero Indian Super League on Saturday.

SC East Bengal sit at the 11th place in the ISL table, with 9 points from 13 matches, while ATK Mohun Bagan are 8th, with 16 points from 10 matches. However, these league standings are irrelevant when it comes to high-voltage matches such as this, according to SC East Bengal head coach Mario Rivera.

“When you play a derby, league positions do not matter. The derby is always about facing your top rival and the outcome can be anything,” the Spaniard said while speaking to the media ahead of the game.

Rivera was honest when asked about the lessons SCEB learnt from the Hyderabad FC match and the areas that needed improvement. “We have tried to hold on to the good things we did in the Hyderabad FC match and improve on the things we didn’t. We are defending well and are working on improving our transitional play. Our goal is to get three points from the match,” he said.

ATKMB has had a mixed run of form this season, but Rivera was in no mood to take his opponent lightly. “ATKMB has one of the best attacking line-ups in the tournament. We have to stop their runs and make sure we don’t give them much space to manoeuvre. ATKMB is fighting for a top-4 spot so I think the pressure will be on them too, but in derbies like this, both the teams feel the heat as the matches are always 50-50,” Rivera said.

The Kolkata Derby is a new experience for the foreigners of SC East Bengal, where the high-voltage match will be played in an empty stadium. Rivera, though, is doing everything he can to make the foreigners understand the importance of the derby. “I’m talking to the foreigners and trying to explain what the match means to the team, the supporters. I’m showing them videos of previous derbies in the YBK to give them a feel of the atmosphere,” the Spaniard said.

SC East Bengal on Tuesday signed versatile Spanish midfielder Fran Sota, but Rivera waved off any chance of the player getting a place in the starting XI. “The derby comes a little too early for Fran Sota, who was in quarantine for long and also tested positive for Covid. He will not start, although he can play a few minutes towards the latter half of the match,” he said.

The Kolkata Derby is all about jam-packed stadiums, occasional chants and boos from the galleries and the emotional attachment this match invokes. Asked about what he will miss the most in terms of the atmosphere, Rivera, who has got a 100% record against the arch-rivals, answered almost instantly. “We will miss our supporters the most in this derby,” he signed off.

It remains to be seen whether SC East Bengal, who won the last Kolkata Derby three years ago, can get the better of their bitter rivals in what promises to be a cagey, nerve-wracking and exciting encounter.

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