Delhi: Confident after drawing former I-League champions Mohun Bagan away from home, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) developmental team Indian Arrows will aim to continue time their undefeated streak of two matches, when they take on East Bengal at the Ambedkar Stadium here on Tuesday.
Beginning with a 3-0 win over Chennai City, the Arrows succumbed to three losses in the next three fixtures, with two of them coming against Minerva Punjab and debutants Gokulam FC.
But impressive win over Shillong Lajong followed by a hard fought draw against Bagan have put them on the radar again and perhaps that is why East Bengal head coach Khalid Jamil refused to take the young lads lightly.
“Indian Arrows are playing good football. The Improvement in them is evident. They are a good unit. It is evident that they are hungry and we are not taking them lightly,” said Jamil who took outsiders Aizwal FC to their maiden I-League title just over a year ago.
“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 however be without goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, who chose not to extend his contract with the AIFF after December 31. Repeated good performances made him the No 1 choice but while coach Luis Norton De Matos played down the custodian’s absence professing his faith on reserve goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Jamil quickly added, “The Arrows not having Dheeraj Singh will be an advantage for us.”
Matos though lavished praises on his team for not losing their first confidence despite going behind against Mohun Bagan but at the same time heaped prise on East Bengal also adding that it will not be an easy encounter against the table toppers.
“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,” said the Portugese tactician before adding, “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.”
The game however will be battle between the experienced campaigners against the future of Indian football, stars with hot-blood waiting to breakthrough. East Bengal will nonetheless be under more pressure given the expectations they carry with them, Arrows on the other side will just play, with results not on their mind and perhaps that is why Matos concluded, “We are going to play to win and we will play to our maximum tomorrow.”