Indian giants East Bengal will face defending champions Kuwait SC in the first leg of their AFC Cup semi-final clash on Tuesday at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium in Kuwait on Tuesday night. Having reached the semis for the first time, the Kolkata club will look to 'bring home' an advantage after the first-leg. The match will be played at 10pm IST.
The lead up to match has been jittery with the Indian club's preparation marred by visa issues and administrative mismanagement. Three East Bengal players, Arnab Mondal, Mehtab Hossain and Gurwinder Singh could not travel with the squad to Kuwait on time after their visas arrived late. The trio just got a day to acclimatize. The visitors have also accused the local organizers of apathy after under-par facilities were provided to them. East Bengal have registered a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation.
Another big blow for East Bengal is the absence of dynamic striker Japanese Ryuji Sueoka, who injured himself in the second-leg quarterfinal against Semen Padang. Sueoka will be replaced in the starting XI by Sudanese James Moga, who scored the winner against the Indonesian side. East Bengal will look up to Moga and Chidi Edeh (in pic) to score the crucial 'away' goals.
Coach Marcos Falopa though is quietly confident ahead of what he expects to be a physical clash. "They are physically stronger and have very good foreigners. But they will make a big mistake if they do not show us the respect we deserve. We are not in the semi-finals by chance. It will be a difficult battle, but we are ready for it," the Brazilian said. Falopa has 11 years of coaching experience in West Asia and his knowledge will come in handy against Kuwait SC.
Kuwait are the defending champions and are an extremely strong unit. They boast of the tournament's top-scorer Issam Jeema. The Tunisian scored seven times against Radiant SC in the quarters and his link-up play with midfield dynamo Rogerio is exceptional. East Bengal captain Hossain, who will be tasked with marking Rogerio, said, "Although Kuwait SC is a good team we will try our best and will aim for a good result."
Falopa is looking forward to a tactical battle and is glad that East Bengal are playing the second leg at home. "I am looking forward to a tactical game in Kuwait and I am happy that we are playing the first leg away from home. Playing the second leg at home would give you a clear picture what is your target to be achieved."
East Bengal will have to put their logistical nightmare behind. The Indian giants will be hopeful of remaining in the hunt for a place in the final when the second leg comes around on October 22 at the Salt Lake Stadium.