Mon, 25 Sep 2023

New Delhi [India], September 15 (ANI): East Bengal FC - a name laden with emotion, pride, and a storied legacy. The club's history is steeped in triumphs, unforgettable moments, and a passionate fan base for whom East Bengal represents more than just a football club; it's a source of identity and hope.

Throughout their history, the club has consistently demonstrated competitiveness in every competition they entered. However, since joining the Indian Super League (ISL) in the 2020-21 season, the Red and Gold Brigade has struggled to showcase their competitive edge on the pitch.

Yet, the last season, was not as bleak as it might appear on paper. The Kolkata-based club displayed glimpses of hope, delivering spirited performances on several occasions. However, they faltered in capitalizing on crucial situations, ultimately leading to a series of disappointing finishes in the lower half of the league table for the third consecutive season, as per an ISL release.

East Bengal FC recently demonstrated their mettle by reaching the finals of the Durand Cup. Despite their commendable efforts, they narrowly missed triumph, succumbing to a 1-0 defeat against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant.

With the arrival of Carles Cuadrat, a former ISL Cup winner with Bengaluru FC, East Bengal FC is determined to turn things around in the upcoming ISL season. This could potentially mark the long-awaited year of redemption for the Red and Gold Brigade.

East Bengal FC have been there in the ISL for three seasons now and they have not been able to come out from their shell yet. Starting from scratch in each of the three seasons is one of the main reasons for this.

The Kolkata-based side entered the ISL during the 2020-21 season and could only manage to finish ninth in their inaugural campaign. There was a bit more optimism surrounding the camp the following season, but the Red and Gold Brigade had a campaign to forget, finishing bottom of the table.

Similar to the first two seasons, they appointed a new manager, and almost revamped their whole squad and the result was quite similar as well. Despite Cleiton Silva and Naorem Mahesh Singh putting in efforts day in and day out, East Bengal FC failed to perform as a unit and as a result finished ninth in the league table.

In contrast to the previous three seasons, East Bengal FC managed to retain some of their key players for this season, including Naorem Mahesh Singh, Lalchungnunga, and Souvik Chakrabarti, among others. The list of retained players also features their star performer from last season, Cleiton Silva, who scored 12 goals and provided one assist, narrowly missing out on the Golden Boot award.

Apart from appointing Cuadrat as the head coach, who boasts a commendable track record with the Blues and possesses a deep understanding and experience of the Indian football landscape, East Bengal FC made some astute moves during the summer transfer window.

The addition of Saul Crespo, Borja Herrera, and Javier Siverio, all of whom come with prior experience in the league, is expected to greatly benefit the team. Notable Indian signings this season include Nandhakumar Sekar, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Mandar Rao Dessai, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, and Nishu Kumar.

The team has displayed promising form so far, as evidenced by their performance in the Durand Cup, and they aim to build upon this and make further improvements before their first league match. However, the injury sustained by Jordan Elsey could prove to be a significant setback. The Australian centre-back made an instant impact and quickly became a fan favourite due to his impressive displays.

The Spanish head coach provided further updates on Elsey's injury during the Media Day in Kolkata on Wednesday. He said, "It is one of the saddest things that can happen to a team or the player to be out for a long injury. We have to try and build something to be competitive, so we are working on a replacement. We will look into what the market can offer us on that. We are professionals who are trying to be as competitive as we can be."Transfers INs: Ajay Chhetri, Julfikar Gazi, Jordan Elsey, Jose Antonio Pardo Lucas, Vanlalpeka Guite, Gurnaj Singh Grewal, Gursimrat Singh Gill, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Mandar Rao Dessai, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Edwin Vanspaul, Saul Crespo, Javier Siverio, Nishu Kumar, Borja Herrera, Nandhakumar Sekar.

OUTs: Pritam Kumar Singh, Ivan Gonzalez, Sarthak Golui, Pawan Kumar, Wahengbam Angousana, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Himanshu Jangra, Naveen Kumar, Suvam Sen, Sumeet Passi, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Semboi Haokip, Charalambos Kyriakou, Jake Jervis, Alex Lima, Jordan O'Doherty.

Key Players-Saul CrespoEver since the departure of Matti Steinmann, East Bengal FC had been looking for a midfielder who could tirelessly cover the entire pitch and excel in a box-to-box role.

Now, with the acquisition of former Odisha FC midfielder Saul Crespo, it seems they have found someone. Crespo assumes the pivotal role of bridging the gap between defence and attack. His midfield prowess is highlighted by his exceptional ability to win duels, intercept passes and contribute on both sides of the ball.

The Spaniard played a pivotal role last season for the Juggernauts helping them secure the playoff berth for the first time and also win the Super Cup. He has maintained that form in his new club which was evident during the Durand Cup, and he would like to build on to that in the ISL. In short, Crespo has to be in top form if East Bengal FC is to dominate ball possession.

-Cleiton SilvaSilva undoubtedly emerged as the standout performer for East Bengal FC in the previous season. With a consistent ability to find the net and significantly contribute to his team's offensive strategies, he notched an impressive 12 goals and provided one crucial assist. Despite being 36 years old, Silva remains a key figure in the Kolkata-based side's plans, and under the guidance of Carles Cuadrat on the sidelines, his potential for further growth is evident.

This dynamic duo has a successful history of working together at Bengaluru FC, and they possess the knowledge and experience to achieve their goals.

The Brazilian forward also excels in making intelligent runs, holding up the ball, and creating goal-scoring opportunities. His versatility and ability to adapt to different tactical setups make him an invaluable asset on the pitch, and we can expect to witness his versatility shine brightly in the upcoming season.

-Naorem Mahesh SinghMahesh Singh underwent a remarkable transformation during the previous season, garnering praise from all quarters for his exceptional performance.

The 24-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Red and Gold Brigade, scoring two goals and contributing seven assists in 19 appearances. The speedy winger not only led the assist charts among Indian players but also ranked third overall. His impressive statistics included 59 crosses and the creation of 27 scoring opportunities. Such stellar performances in the ISL earned him a well-deserved call-up to the Indian National Team.

With a year of invaluable experience under his belt, Mahesh is poised to assume a pivotal role in Cuadrat's squad, ensuring that East Bengal FC remains competitive throughout the upcoming season.

FixturesEast Bengal FC will host the former ISL League winners, Jamshedpur FC, in their opening game on September 25, followed by another home game against Hyderabad FC on September 30. (ANI)

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