In this article we will take a look at The Kolkata Derby between ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal. This year will mark the 100th year anniversary of the first ever match in between these two teams. Both of them have played each other over 300 times (329 competitive matches). East Bengal are little ahead with 129 wins compared to ATK Mohun Bagan's 122 wins in this fixture.
ATK Mohun Bagan are coming with a good record into this game. Barring their inter zonal semi final match against Nassaf in AFC Cup (where Mohun Bagan lost 6-0) they have looked comfortable in all their matches. SC East Bengal on the other hand have not played much competitive football other than Calcutta Football League where they lost all their matches and are coming into this match with a 1-1 draw against a fairly strong Jamshedpur FC.
A little history about this fixture, as I said it is almost 100 years old rivalry with the first match being played on 8th August 1921 in Coochbehar Cup. This match is known as “Boro Match” in local areas which translates to Big Match.
Mohun Bagan was founded under the British Empire in 1889 in Calcutta (presently Kolkata). In 1920 Jora Bagan took on Mohun Bagan without their star halfback Sailesh Bose which infuriated the club president Suresh Chaudhari so much that he decided to form SC East Bengal as he and the co-founders were form East Bengal which is presently Bangladesh.
Most of the East Bengal fans are immigrants who migrated from Bangladesh to settle in Indian state (like Celtic) and Mohun Bagan fans are nativist (like Rangers) and are from different classes which gives it a socioeconomic flavour. Most of this information is on Wikipedia and I encourage you guys to look into it.
I don't see any changes in the playing XI barring any injuries that I am unaware of. They have a fairly new squad with new manager in their just the second season of ISL so it would be easy to keep the same squad atleast for 2-3 games more to get an idea if I was the manager.
ATK Mohun Bagan would also keep their whole playing XI intact that started in the previous. This is just the second game of the season and given the magnitude of this game it is better to keep the team same who have been training together since probably last month.
Just a little about East Bengal before going into the tactics part. This is their second season in ISL after they were added to ISL last season following the inclusion of their rivals Mohun Bagan due to them merging with ATK. As ISL being a closed league (for now) there was no way East Bengal could have made it into league by means of promotion. So to keep the rivalry live and on a bigger stage Bengal government and ISL officials made provisions to add them into league.
In their first season they hired Robbie Fowler as their coach and it was not a fairy tale end for them. They finished 9th in the table just above Kerala Blasters (on GD) and Odisha FC who were last. So to counter that they bought in a new manager named Manolo Diaz from Spain who was a former Real Madrid Castilla and Real Madrid B team manager. Not only that they also changed their entire foreign players, releasing old ones and buying new. So enough about that and let's get into fun part.
To be honest I have not seen much of East Bengal play and their team and their tactics look a lot different than what they were last year, so I have a little bit of database to go into. So instead of talking about the usual Build Up, Final Third and Transition I am changing things a little bit and talking about how they can stop ATK as well as how can they score.
Since his signing from Mumbai, Boumous has really elevated ATK's attack. He hangs around that half space near the mid line, his back turned towards the centre backs ready to turn him around and run into the unmarked area left open by the opposition fullbacks who pushed forward to support his attack. Even if he does not get that open space he surely has the ability to get the better of the defender as well. Don't forget his ability to put through balls in the path of his teammates as well.
In the match against Jamshedpur I saw two sitting midfielders Angousana and Sourav Das who didn't get forward as much. So one of them can try and stay close to Boumous and pounce on heavy touch he makes in order to control the ball. Not only that they can also cover the passing lanes so that ATK players find it difficult to bring him into the game let alone influence it.
So by man marking Boumous East Bengal would be closing one major way ATK would attack. To close another major one East Bengal would have to cover their flanks as well and not allow Colaco and Manvir any space down the flanks. Both of them have pace and are really good with keeping hold of the ball under high pressure and dribble down the line cutting inside and putting a shot on target.
Luckily East Bengal's formation 4-4-2 allows them to have their width both with and without possession. One thing I saw in the game against Jamshedpur is whenever the opposition entered their defensive third, one of the holding midfielder slotted in between centre back and full back to cover that open space left by the full backs who puts pressure on the man with possession.
As you can see in the image above the opposition decides to attack from East Bengal's right side and push their full back forward to create numbers advantage. So the right back goes to meet the opposition forward player and Bengal's right mid keeps up with the opposition full back. The right sided holding mid becomes a temporary right back and slots into that position.
One thing important would be communication between both the holding mid as I said in the previous section one of them has to man mark Boumous and not let him run free. So they have to talk and decide who will mark Boumous and who will slot in that pseudo full back space so that there is no confusion.
East Bengal would have watched ATK Mohun Bagan's game and had seen that they have been conceding goals from crosses into the box. This might be their main source of attack given their natural width in formation and with fullbacks pushing forward they have that numbers on the flanks. With two strikers in the box both being 180cm life is going to be difficult for ATK centre backs.
One of their striker Antonio Perisovic was seen playing as a no.10 dropping deep, receiving the ball in that central area and linking up with his wide midfielders. With as many as 5 ATK players always staying behind the ball it would be important for him to drop into the midfield. If East Bengal players can find him in that half spaces behind wingbacks in counter attack then he can easily pull 1-2 defenders towards him making spaces for other players.
I might not have written much about ATK Mohun Bagan in this piece because I am planning on releasing a big article on their play style, tactics and manager so this is a bit short and up to point for Saturday's game. For East Bengal I don't have anything in my mind so I put a lot of efforts for their part.
ATK's during build when comfortable in position play in a 3-2-5. Other than their wingbacks no one commits to forward. If nothing is happening through the middle (in short Plan A does not work) then and only then their wide centre backs push a little forward. Mostly they stick near their defensive third spreading in order to cover the half spaces. The two defensive midfielders Deepak Tangri and Lenny Rodriguez stay close to their centre backs providing a defensive screen.
Offensively these players do not offer much other than moving the ball forward to players like Boumous, Kauko or Williams. Defensively they are very strong, especially their midfielders. Tangri an excellent chaser of the ball and Lenny has most number of interceptions and tackles as a midfielder, but this season they have conceded a goal from a crosses into the box (mostly against low cross) in each game this season (barring their first game against Bengaluru in AFC Cup).
With wingbacks pushing forward they have 5 players in the opposition defensive third. Addition of Hugo Boumous to the squad has elevated their attack with more good service to their striker and talisman Roy Krishna. It might take some eyes of him as well with Boumous attracting opposition players to him. They also have Kauko who looks like a box to box midfielder who fills the spaces left open by Boumous and if Boumous drops deep he takes more advanced position.
ATK do have a second striker in David Williams who can be used in case wingbacks starts pinging cross into the box. As mentioned earlier in this article Manvir and Colaco are the wingbacks who are very good down the line. But East Bengal's formation lets them cover almost entire pitch without any fuss. They might find it a little easy against Colaco and Manvir but would find it difficult to defend against Krishna or Boumous if there is a lot of interchanging in that forward line.
Most of the ATK players would try to bring Hugo Boumous into the play. Boumous at the start of the attack likes to be in that left half space with his back against the defender. When he receives the ball he turns around his defender and try run into an empty space with the ball. He can then do a 1-2 with any of his teammates or can provide a delicious through ball to Roy Krishna or to the wingbacks if they make a diagonal run.
If East Bengal crowds the central area then wingbacks would get that time and space down the flanks and ping crosses into the box or probably cut inside and take a shot with their favoured foot. ATK Mohun Bagan's attacking gameplan might sound pretty straightforward and plain which would make it easy to defend against but the perfect execution of it by the players makes it difficult to defend against.
ATK Mohun Bagan are lot stronger compared to their rivals East Bengal. Sure it is a Derby day and anything can happen on such occasion but the vast difference in their quality does not give me much hope for East Bengal. Plus ATK have much stability in terms of experience in the competition, players have been playing for them multiple seasons and manager Habas has been around the club for almost 5 years.
On the other hand East Bengal were just promoted to ISL last season and had their entire batch of foreigners and coaches changed after last season. I predict ATK Mohun Bagan to dominate and win this game by 3-1 or 3-0 scoreline. Regardless of that it is going to be a little fiesty and gritty, shame there are no fans in the crowd to enjoy it though.
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