New Delhi: It will be a battle of experience vs youthful exuberance when table-toppers East Bengal face Indian Arrows, a team made up of teenagers in a Hero I-League match on Tuesday.
The Indian Arrows, the developmental team of All India Football Federation (AIFF), is a project where a bunch of 16, 17 and 18-year-olds are playing together in a side in the premier league of the country.
And a top teams of the country can underestimate the Indian Arrows at the their own peril as they held mighty Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw in their last match and that too with 10- man at the Mohun Bagan ground.
Like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal is a giant in Indian football and they are presently leading the table with 14 points. The Arrows, on the other hand, are lying at the seventh spot with seven points from six matches.
East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil, the man with the Midas touch who guided 'outsiders' Aizawl FC to a historic triumph in the last edition of the Hero I-League, cautioned his players against taking the teenagers lightly.
"The Indian Arrows are playing good football ranging from the goalkeepers to the forwards. There is a lot of confidence and they play as a unit on the field. It is evident that they are hungry and we are not taking them lightly," said Khalid.
"We are playing an away fixture with a good young team who have played excellently in their last two matches. We acknowledge the fact that the Indian Arrows are a genuine threat for us," he added.
The Arrows will be without the services of its star goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, who has quit the I-League team in an attempt to pursue a career in Europe.
"Dheeraj (Singh) is an excellent goalkeeper and not having to face him tomorrow will be a huge advantage for us. But still it will be a tough match for us," the East Bengal coach said.
East Bengal too would be cautious especially after drawing 1-1 against another new outfit NEROCA FC in their last game.
"When you take an early lead you approach the game a bit defensively and we conceded in the dying minutes. We need to rectify our mistakes and move ahead," Jamil said.
Luis Norton de Matos, the Portuguese who coached India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, is presently in charge of the Indian Arrows and he considers every outing as a big motivation for his wards.
"All the games that we play in the Hero I-League are big motivation for us. Against Mohun Bagan, we pulled off a very massive result and the boys showed that it is possible to play against some of the best teams in the nation," De Matos said.
"Kingfisher East Bengal are a very good and organised team. The coach Khalid Jamil is a very good coach and they have many players who are very difficult to stop in the final third.
"Tomorrow I expect a very hard game for us, but we are prepared for it. We are going to play to win and we will play to our maximum tomorrow," he added.
Updated Date: Jan 02, 2018 09:12 AM