Kolkata: Chasing a third straight Federation Cup title, holders East Bengal will look to get off to a winning start when they take on qualifiers Mohammedan Sporting in their opening match of the 33rd edition of the tournament, here on Saturday.
East Bengal will begin their title defence after the tournament opener, between group C's Dempo Sports Club and Pune FC, at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
With the local heavyweights and the Goan outfit placed in the same group, it will make the contest even more tantalising as only the toppers have the chance of making the semis.
East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan has already showed his willingness to defend the title by choosing form over fame, when the Englishman dropped senior pro Abhra Mondal, who was named captain for the 2011-12 season.
In the goalkeeper's absence, Sandip Nandi will be the seven-time champions' main custodian, while Sanju Pradhan will wear the captain's armband. Morgan, however, has retained the core of the squad that beat 13-time champions Mohun Bagan 1-0 in last year's final in Cuttack.
Mohun Bagan are the only team to have won a hat-trick of Federation Cup title on two occasions. Talismanic midfielder Mehtab Hossain will once again be the vital cog in wheel for set piece movements in the midfield, while the foreign duo of Orji Penn and Tolgay Ozbey will be the ones to earn them the goals.
At the same time, all eyes would be on Alan Gow who has impressed the coach during practice. Morgan hinted that Gow would come in as replacement. "There is no pressure in the team. We are more or less the same team. There is a good coordination among us."