Kolkata: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup semi-finalists East Bengal host high flying table toppers Bengaluru FC in a round 7 clash of the I-League in Kalyani Saturday afternoon.
It will not only be the first ever meeting between the two clubs but Bengaluru FC would also be playing their maiden away game, having won four of their five home matches to occupy the pole position in the 13-team table with 13 points.
East Bengal on the other hand have a fixture backlog to make up in the I-League as they have been away on AFC Cup duty.
The Kolkata club's amazing journey in the AFC Cup came to an end against defending champions Kuwait SC in the semi-finals after their 0-3 loss in the second leg Tuesday.
The red-and-gold-brigade have only played twice in the I-League and have three points. They lost their last match 1-3 against Dempo and thus would be eager to return to winning ways against debutants Bengaluru FC.
East Bengal's Brazilian coach Marcos Falopa, however, has some selection problems as dependable Nigerian central defender Uga Okpara is unavailable due to suspension while the midfield duo of Ryuji Sueoka and Reisangmi Vashum are also expected to miss out due to injury.
Indian defender Arnab Mondal is also nursing an injury which he suffered in the AFC Cup semi-final second leg.
But irrespective of all the personnel problems, East Bengal are desperate for maximum points as they don't want to lose any further ground in the title race.
A defeat in this game would see them fall 13 points behind the leaders, albeit having three games in hand.
“There is a long season ahead so we must improve on certain areas and look to come back strongly,” Falopa said after the AFC Cup exit.
Meanwhile, Bengaluru FC have enjoyed a dream start in their debut I-League campaign with good team performances complemented by the healthy turnouts at the Bangalore Football Stadium.
Head coach Ashley Westwood seems to have found the right balance between youth and experience with the foreigners also in great form including Australian striker Sean Rooney who is the league's joint second highest scorer with five goals.
Having played and coached in England, Westwood has plenty of experience at the top level and thus is well aware that his players must not get complacent.
“We haven't played away from home yet so this is going to be a big test. We can't get carried away with our position in the table and must keep working hard,” Westwood said.