SC East Bengal will take on reigning I-League champions Gokulam Kerala FC in their third friendly match at the Don Bosco Ground in Goa on Wednesday.
The red and gold brigade have begun their pre-season, playing two friendly games last week. Coached by former Real Madrid tactician Jose Manuel ‘Manolo’ Diaz, the Kolkata-based side beat Vasco SC and Salgaocar FC by 3-1 and 2-0 goal margins respectively.
Gokulam Kerala FC overwhelmed Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) FC 4-1 in the final round match of the I-League earlier this year to win their maiden I-League title.
The Kozhikode-based side became the first club from Kerala to lift the trophy and the first ever Kerala club to participate in any AFC competition.
Coached by Italian Vincenzo Alberto Annese, Gokulam Kerala FC will have their four foreigners – Sharif Mukhammad, Rahim Osumanu, Bouba Aminou and Chisom Elvis Chikatara — available for selection on Wednesday.
“I think it’s very good that we are playing the best team in the I-League,” said SC East Bengal’s Australian defender Tomislav Mrcela. “They won the league last time so I think they will come hard at us. We already played two games. The second game was much better than the first one. I hope we can improve on our last performance and get better every day.”
Asked about the team’s preparations, Mrcela said: “So far, it has been great. We don’t have any major injury concern which is the most important thing in pre-season.”
“We have a long way to go before our first match of the season. We have a lot of time to get ready for the ISL. We are working hard. We are enjoying and getting along everyday more and more.”
The focus in training on Tuesday was on short passes, close control and a lot of fitness drills.
Diaz on Monday said that SC East Bengal will take one game at a time this season, making it clear that the aim is to work hard as a unit and leave no stone unturned in their bid to achieve success.
“At the moment, we are getting to know the players. We now have many players and we are testing them. In the coming weeks, we are going to finalise the squad,” said Diaz during his first press conference since taking charge of SC East Bengal.