Dempo take on depleted EB

Dempo take on depleted EB

Football Federation Cup

A depleted East Bengal defence would brighten the prospects for Dempo Sports Club as the top two teams of the last I-League square off in the 34th Federation Cup final at the Kanchenjungha stadium here on Sunday.

East Bengal had to pay a price for their hard-fought win over Churchill Brothers in the semifinals as both their centerbacks Uga Okpara and Gurwinder Singh earned their second yellow cards ensuring they will have to sit out of the final.

With the burly Okpara not manning the centre of the defence, Dempo’s frontmen Joaquim Abranches and Koko Sakibo, who are peaking at the right time, would look to breach the red-and-gold’s fort.

Dempo coach Armando Colaco has only one foreigner in Sakibo as Japanese recruit Ryuji Sueoka is indisposed but the Nigerian is coming to his elements after his hat-trick in their
4-0 rout of Mumbai FC in the group league.

In the semis against Salgaocar on Friday, Sakibo once again combined well with Abranches, who gave them the lead, while the former settled the issue with a cool finish.
The duo’s ominous form would surely worry East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan and it remains to be seen what strategy the Englishman come up with against a team who have conceded just one goal in this tournament.

Edeh Chidi and youngster Manandeep Singh will lead the East Bengal attack, while Orji Penn and Mehtab Hossain would be their chief playmakers as they eye their seventh title.

Captain Sanju Pradhan would also play a key role from the right flank for East Bengal, who will enjoy solid support from the stands. “Right across the midfield Dempo is very creative. We have to raise our game to the level to that level to win,” Morgan said.

The most impressive team of the I-League -- Dempo -- who advanced to their fifth final in the competition, however, do not have a similar record in the Federation Cup, having won the title only once. They will be aiming to better that record on Sunday.

“We play as a team and will continue to do so in the final tomorrow,”  Colaco said. “We will try to give our best. None of the sides can confidently say it is going to win. If we win we will dedicate the crown to the memory of (Cristiano) Junior,” Colaco said referring to the on-field death of the striker when Dempo won the title in 2004.

“East Bengal cannot be underdogs on their home soil. They have a good midfield and so do we. So one can expect creative approach from both the sides,” Colaco added.