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Can Sourav Das shackle Hugo Boumous? Three key battles that could decide the fate of Kolkata Derby

9:56 AM IST 28/01/22
Hugo Boumous, ATK Mohun Bagan
Can Franjo Prce contain Roy Krishna?

The Kolkata derby is traditionally one of the mostly hotly contested fixtures in Indian football. The players are motivated to give something extra on the pitch as a good performance in this match is the key to becoming a blue-eyed boy of millions of fans. It is a platform for the players to become a part of the Kolkata Maidan folklore, as a goal or a spectacular defensive performance, is likely to be talked about for years to come.

However, in the run-up to this mega contest, neither of the teams find themselves in good form. ATK Mohun Bagan looked rusty in front of goal against Odisha after coming back to action following a lengthy layoff due to Covid-19, whereas, East Bengal were hammered 4-0 by Hyderabad FC in their last outing. But on Saturday, both teams will start with a clean slate and will look to bring out the best in them. Many a time Individual brilliance decides the final result and there will be a handful of players on the pitch, like Roy Krishna or Hugo Boumous, who has the ability to change the complexion of the match single-handedly.

Let us take a look at the key battles in the upcoming Kolkata derby.

3. Ashutosh Mehta vs Naorem Mahesh

It will be an intriguing battle on the flanks between the two key players who are in form. Ashutosh Mehta is a sturdy defender who is not afraid to go for the tackles. Although he was hardly used by former coach Antonio Habas, the arrival of Juan Ferrando has changed things for him. He finds himself to be a regular starter and has delivered on the trust put on him by the manager. Against Hyderabad, he kept a leash on Aniket Jadhav, whereas Odisha's Nandha Kumar had little space to operate on that flank.

But Naorem Mahesh is also in a good nick. Against FC Goa he scored a brace and during both goals, he reacted quickly to pounce on the opposition mistake. He has a good pace coupled with quick feet that should keep Mehta on his toes throughout the game.

2. Hugo Boumous vs Sourav Das

In midfield, a lot will depend on how East Bengal manages to neutralise the threat of Hugo Boumous. The French midfielder has exceptional vision and if he dictates proceedings in the attacking third, it will be a feast for Mariners' forwards. However, he did not participate in Bagan's last match against Odisha, as he was serving a suspension, so it is close to three weeks that he last played competitive football. Hence there might be some rustiness which is something Sourav Das should look to exploit.

Das has been impressive in this edition of ISL with his defensive actions at the centre of the park. He has 37 tackles in 11 matches and has just two yellow cards to his name which shows that he has been hitting the right chords with his challenges. It will be a tough task for the youngster to keep a check on a dangerous player like Boumous. But he did reasonably well against Alberto Noguera of FC Goa which should boost his confidence. He is a bundle of energy on the pitch and if he manages to shadow Boumous and trouble him with constant tackles, then it might impact the game of the attacking midfielder as he often loses his temper.

1. Roy Krishna vs Franjo Prce

The Fijian striker started the season in fierce form but as the campaign progressed, his brilliance has fizzled out. He has not scored in the past four matches which is not pretty compared to the high standards that he has set for himself. However, Krishna has scored in each of the three derbies that he has participated and the forward will not get a better occasion to get back to form than the Kolkata derby. So we can expect a motivated Krishna against East Bengal, which is usually not good news for the opposition.

Needless to say, Franjo Prce will have his work cut out against Bagan's talisman. He got a taste of Krishna's quality in the previous encounter and he would not like his concentration to slip even for a moment.