Debutants Minerva Punjab FC will have to play out of their skins to harbour any hopes of pulling off an upset against high-flying Mohun Bagan in a 3rd round I-League football fixture at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium on Tuesday.
On the back of two home wins, Mohun Bagan will play a third here before hitting the road, as they are at par with Bengaluru FC and Mumbai FC on full six points from two outings.
Though the first win (1-0) against Churchill Brothers had blemishes and could have gone either way with them being down to 10 men in the second half, and Churchill hitting the bar once; the second game was all about their unmistakable flair as they blanked Shillong Lajong FC 2-0.
With the likes of Sony Norde, who is touted as the I-League’s finest and new recruit Eduardo Ferreira, the Sanjoy Sen-coached side looked streets ahead of Minerva Punjab FC.
Darryl Duffy, who was enduring a lean patch, notched a goal apiece on either half of the match to announce his arrival and also give a good headache to Sen on who to play.
A player of the calibre of Jeje Lalpkehlua is yet to start a game and was seen as a late second half substitute in the last game. The AIFF player of the year is expected to start on Tuesday as Balwant Singh is a doubtful starter.
Defender Kingshuk Debnath, who provided the assist to Duffy for the first goal, is out with a niggle and so is midfielder Sehnaj Singh.
“I don’t make too many changes to the team. But there are some I have to make,” Sen said on the eve of their fixture.
Norde may not start the match and can be used as a substitute later.
“Whether he is still fit to play 90 minutes or not we will have to see,” the Mohun Bagan gaffer said.
Minerva, on the other hand, will depend on Nigerians Loveday Enyinnaya and Joel Sunday to make a mark along with a raft of India national team age-group players who played under the-then youth coach Colm Toal. Incidentally, Toal has been named the technical director of the club.
Minerva will be without first choice goalkeeper Ravi Kumar, who is injured. “We have Kamaljit (Singh) and Arshaeep (Singh) in our ranks. We cannot do anything about it,” head coach Surinder Singh said.
Minerva are yet to win a game after losing to Aizawl and drawing to fellow debutants Chennai City FC in their very first game in the top flight.