1. Home
  2. Sports
  3. Soccer
  4. IFA Shield: East Bengal, Mohun Bagan

IFA Shield: East Bengal, Mohun Bagan start favourites

Kolkata: East Bengal will look to shrug off their Federation Cup disappointment when they kick off the IFA Shield campaign against South Korean club, Busan SunMoon FC, in a group I fixture at the Barasat
PTI January 28, 2014 18:31 IST
PTI
Kolkata: East Bengal will look to shrug off their Federation Cup disappointment when they kick off the IFA Shield campaign against South Korean club, Busan SunMoon FC, in a group I fixture at the Barasat Stadium tomorrow.



United Sikkim FC will face S-League side Geylang International in the second match of the day as the 118-year-old tournament this year will lack sheen without top I-League clubs who have preferred to skip the Shield for the top tier league.

In such a scenario, the three foreign clubs, the other being Sheikh Jamal Dhanmodi Club of Bangladesh, will be in the spotlight among the four city I-League clubs and second division side United Sikkim FC.

For East Bengal, who narrowly missed the semifinal cut in the just concluded Federation Cup in Kerala, the Shield will give the perfect setting before getting into the final phase of the I-League.

The Armando Colaco-coached side looked a little rusty after their local league win as they lost to arch rivals Mohun Bagan in the concluding match before slipping in the Federation Cup.

But skipper and inspirational play maker Mehtab Hossain is expected to return from an injury lay-off that will give the team a huge boost even as the team has injury woes of defender Uga Okpara.  A side in the National League which is a tier below K-League, Busan SunMoon comprise players in the 21-25 age group and do not have any foreigner on their roster.
    
For the Busan side it's off season as they are here to prove a point in India.
    
"India is a fast-growing footballing nation and the IFA Shield is one of the oldest tournaments in the world. So, there is a lot of prestige involved in winning it," general manager of the club Lee Hyung-IL said.
    
Meanwhile, for United it will be problems aplenty as they would be without their coach Eelco Schattorie who quit following a frustrated stint with the side which is struggling to put things together without a sponsor.
    
Known as Eagles, Singaporean outfit Geylang finished in the bottom half of the table last year.
    
Having been knocked out by eventual winners Churchill Brothers in the Federation Cup semis, Mohun Bagan will be the firm favourites in group II.
    
The Shield will assume a lot of importance for Mohun Bagan who have not won a major trophy for quite some time now and the team's Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa would be hoping that the team can go all the way.
    
The group II will also have local challengers Mohammedan Sporting, Bangladeshi domestic league leaders Sheikh Jamal Dhanmodi Club and minnows United Sikkim.
    
With conditions similar to that in their country, Sheikh Jamal who were runners up in the Bangladeshi league last year, will feel themselves at 'home' in Kolkata as they will step up the competition in group II.
    
This will be the first time in five years that a Bangladeshi club will participate.