Durand Cup: Focus on Coach Kibu Vicuna as Mohun Bagan Face Mohammedan Sporting in Opener
Durand Cup 2019: The 129th edition of revamped Durand Cup will take place in Bengal from August 2-24.
Mohun Bagan are 16-time winners of the Durand Cup. (Photo Credit: @Mohun_Bagan)
Kolkata: Sixteen-time champions Mohun Bagan will take on Mohammedan Sporting at the Saltlake Stadium here on Friday to kick off the revamped 129th edition of the Durand Cup, which will be held for the first time in Bengal.
All eyes would be on Mohun Bagan's new coach Kibu Vicuna as the team will play its first match under the Spaniard.
"It is a very special tournament and Mohun Bagan have won 16 times. It is as important as the Calcutta Football League. We are ready to win tomorrow," Vicuna said on the eve of the match.
The 2015 I-League champions slipped to fifth position last season and lost both high profile derby matches, forcing the team to make wholesale changes this time.
Apart from technical setup, Mohun Bagan has recruited four Spaniards for the new season. Salva Chamorro will spearhead the forward line, Francisco Gonzalez and Joseba Beitia will be in charge of the midfield, while defender Fran Morante will hold the backline.
The Indian contingent is also quite strong with the likes of Sheikh Faiaz, Arijit Bagui, Shilton Paul and Ashutosh Mehta in the squad.
The Mariners had become the first Indian civilian club to play in the tournament way back in 1922, while two-time former champions Mohammedan Sporting were the first-ever civilian team to win the title in 1940.
"I know Mohammaden Sporting is a historic team, playing in the second division and have four African players. We are not taking them lightly. I know they have an experienced coach," Vicuna said.
"We have been training for the last one month. It's a new team having a lot of new players. This process takes time and in two months time we will be better.
"We will try to play attacking, play pro-active football. We will try to create chances and score as soon as possible," he added.
Mohammedan Sporting were the last from the Big Three Kolkata teams to win the title in 2013 and they are looking up to their good track record against the city rivals for a positive result on Friday.
"In 2017 we won 1-0 against Mohun Bagan. Last season we were leading by a goal and then lost 2-1. There are no small or big teams on the pitch. The team which gives their best on that day will win. We are not thinking if it's Mohun Bagan or East Bengal," captain Kamran Farooq said.
Third oldest tournament in the world and the oldest in the Asia, Durand Cup this time will see teams from the two rival leagues of the country -- I-League and Indian Super League -- vying for top honours along side Army Red, Army Green, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
The 16 teams participating in the meet, which includes five Indian Super League clubs, six I-League clubs, one I-League 2nd division club and four teams from the Army, will be divided into four groups with toppers making it to the semifinals.
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