Kingfisher East Bengal will kick-start their I-League campaign against Sporting Clube De Goa in an away fixture at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, Goa, on Sunday.
Sporting Goa somehow managed to escape relegation in the last season of the I-League, and will look to put up a better show in the current edition after they emerged victorious in the state league.
"We have a squad that is good enough to put up a challenge for the title. There will be teething problems at the start, with some players unavailable, but our bench strength is good this year," Sporting Goa coach Mathew D'Costa told mediapersons.
East Bengal have also won the Calcutta Football League (CFL), and having finished fourth in the previous season of the I-League, will look to go for the full monty.
The Federation Cup encounter last year between Sporting Goa and East Bengal was a thrilling one. Sporting Goa came back from behind stun East Bengal 4-3 in that game. In the last two meetings between these two sides, Sporting Goa have successfully came back from behind to secure draws.
It is going to be yet another riveting encounter between these two sides. Sporting Goa have a number of injuries to deal with ahead of their opening game of the I-League against the upbeat East Bengal. As a result, the CFL champions will start as favourites and the Goa counterpart will have their back to the walls.
Rowlin Borges, Victorino Fernandes and Miguel Garcia are injured and have been sidlined for the clash against East Bengal. Odafa Okolie will start upfront, and the gaffer will expect him to be on song against the Red-and-Gold force on Sunday.
East Bengal have released three foreign players in the form of defender Milan Susak, midfielder Leo Bertos and striker Dudu Omagbemi. They have been replaced by Bello Rasaq and Do Dong Hyun. Ranti Martins is the third foreigner in the East Bengal squad. The fourth signing is yet to be announced. In all probability, Chennaiyin FC star defender Bernard Mendy could be their fourth foreign signing of the season. If this deal gets through, East Bengal will sport a pretty formidable side and boost their hopes of lifting the I-League for the first time since its inception.
One can expect a goal feast at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Goa as two of the best strikers in I-league history, Odafa Okolie and Ranti Martins, will lock horns on Sunday.
Cavin Lobo, Joaquim Abranches and Louis Barreto will miss out on Sunday's I-League clash, according to Red and Gold coach Biswajit Bhattacharya. Lobo has been suffering from an injury and the other two do not have enough match practice.
Ranti Martins and Mohamed Rafique will be the two forwards for eight-time Federation Cup champions East Bengal. Do Dung Hyun has been a crucial signing for the Red-and-Gold, and he can cause a lot of problems for Sporting Goa on Sunday.
"At East Bengal, we are always on our toes, always under pressure. This season our team is really good. There are a few injuries but overall, it's a good side," coach Biswajit Bhattacharya told reporters ahead of their opening fixture of the I-League against Sporting Clube De Goa on Sunday.
Where to watch live:
The I-league encounter between Sporting Clube De Goa and East Bengal is scheduled for a 4:30 pm IST (11 am GMT) start. The football fans in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bhutan catch the live action on Ten Action.
The live streaming option will be available on Tensports.com.
Fans in Germany, Austria, Russia, Switzerland and Gerogia can catch the live action of Sporting Club De Goa vs East Bengal on LAOLA1 and the live action will be available on LAOLA1.TV.
Other international countries can watch Sporting Clube De Goa vs East Bengal live on Bet365.