The temperature is soaring as Kolkata braces itself for the first derby of the season. Referred to as the Boro Match (Big Match) locally, it not only divides the two fanbases within the stadium but resonates throughout the entire country. The historic Kolkata Derby, born on August 8, 1921, stands as an iconic rivalry on par with renowned global clashes like El Clásico, the Merseyside derby and the clash of the two Milan giants at the San Siro. The derby experience entails packed galleries, spirited slogans and chants, and dynamic tifo displays. You will also get Ghotis (most of the Mohun Bagan fans) savouring prawns, and Bangals (the majority of the East Bengal support) relishing hilsa, to celebrate this intense rivalry.
The significance of the Kolkata Derby is deeply ingrained in the hearts of both sets of fans. For Mohun Bagan enthusiasts, their ISL 2022-23 victory brought an extra gift—the removal of ATK (the previous franchise) from the team’s name and logo by Sanjiv Goenka, the current owner, resulting in much fervour and jubilation in the stands. Conversely, East Bengal’s drought in the fixture since January 27, 2019, when both still competed in the I-League, adds its own nervous anticipation.
Things to watch out for:
Mohun Bagan Super Giants enter the game with the momentum of two consecutive wins in the initial stages of the Durand Cup 2023, and needing only a draw against East Bengal to secure a spot in the knockout stage. Meanwhile, East Bengal, after a modest start to their campaign, face a must-win encounter against MBSG to keep their playoff hopes alive.
East Bengal has undergone a major transformation following an underwhelming ISL season. With the recruitment of Carles Cuadrat, the Spanish coach who won the ISL with Bengaluru FC, and his assistant Demas Delgado, the team aims to reclaim former glories. The addition of seasoned foreign players alongside promising emerging talents bolsters the line-up. While MBSG has retained its core group, it has also fortified its squad with experienced players. However, in this derby showdown at the vibrant Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, the true mettle of both teams and players will be tested.
Players to Watch:
Juan Ferrando, the Mohun Bagan head coach, is yet to unveil his full arsenal in the ongoing tournament. The derby presents an opportunity to deploy his best XI ahead of a critical AFC Cup clash on August 16.
All eyes are on Hugo Boumos, the French midfielder who played a pivotal role in Mohun Bagan’s ISL triumph, and who made a memorable entry this season with a crucial goal against Punjab FC.
Anwar Ali, a standout defender in India’s Intercontinental and SAFF campaigns, shone on his debut in the green and maroon. His defensive prowess, distribution skills, and composure will add calibre to the MBSG defence.
Anirudh Thapa, a linchpin of the Indian football team’s midfield, could potentially make his MBSG debut in the derby and will have a great opportunity to showcase his skills on a grand stage.
Anticipation also surrounds Australian World Cup participant Jason Cummings’ debut for MBSG. The chance of him teaming up with Dimi Petratos in attack, supported by Hugo Boumos in central-attacking midfield, adds a lot of strength to their attack.
East Bengal place their hopes on Javier Siverio, the Spanish midfield recruit who contributed with a goal in their opening match. Siverio, a key player for Hyderabad FC in recent seasons, will have a pivotal role in the derby.
Mahesh Naorem, a standout performer last season, possesses the ability to unsettle Mohun Bagan’s defence with his swift runs and precise crosses. Lalchungnunga, the 22-year-old defender from Mizoram, has garnered attention for his defensive prowess and will be eager to excel in his fourth derby appearance.
With Nishu Kumar unavailable due to a red card, Harmanjot Khabra is likely to step in as the right-back for East Bengal, facing the challenge of containing the dynamic Ashique Kuruniyan on the left wing.
Without any injury concerns, Ferrando will aim to unleash his strongest line-up against East Bengal and complete a fifth consecutive victory.