Guwahati: Mighty Mohun Bagan will look to stretching their enviable Federation Cup record against Aizawl FC in the final match here on Saturday.
Mohun Bagan are the record 13-time champions of the traditional football tournament -- the most by any club. It will be Aizawl's first appearance in the final of the tournament.
And after getting relegated from the I-League this season, they surely will leave no stone unturned to lay their hands on the trophy for redemption. Mohun Bagan won't also be short of motivation after failing to defend their I-League title this season, narrowly relinquishing it to Bengaluru FC.
Mohun Bagan thrashed Shillong Lajong 5-0 in the first leg of the semis at home and then drew 0-0 in the seond leg away to win 5-0 on aggregate.
Aizawl held Sporting Clube de Goa to a 2-2 stalemate in their second leg semi-final fixture away at Goa after playing out a goalless draw in the first leg at home. Aizawl advanced to the final on the basis of the away goal rule.
Though on paper, Mohun Bagan look the stronger side, coach Sanjoy Sen believes Aizawl will put up a stiff fight.
Asked if they are the favourites to lift the trophy for the 14th time, Sen said in a release on Friday, “I don’t agree. You need to look back at Aizawl FC’s performance against Bengaluru FC (quarter-final) in the Federation Cup. You also need to look back at their performance against us in the I-League when they defeated us and halted our unbeaten run."
"Hence, it will be foolish to brand Mohun Bagan as the favourites. Anyone can beat anybody on a particular day. Aizawl FC will be a tough clash and if we want to win, we have to deliver.”
Sen is also wary of the fact that Aizawl have scored five goals in two away fixtures of the competition.
“They have the ability to score goals. They scored five goals in their two away fixtures. They also have the ability to come out good in crunch situations,” he said.
With Aizawl playing here a lot of local supporters are expected to fill up the stands and cheer for the home team. But Sen said they are too focussed to worry about the hostile crowd.
“Even if it is so (many Aizawl FC fans in the stands) it would not affect us. We are focused on the task at hand and that is to win the Federation Cup,” he said.
Sen, who had led Mohun Bagan to I-League victory last year will be relying on his big guns like Sony Norde and Katsumi Yusa to fire.
The midfield-duo has been brilliant for the team this season along with striker Jeje Lalpekhlua who is also in fine goal scoring form.
Aizawl have had a dramatic turnaround in fortunes at the Federation Cup after a dismal I-League campaign where they got relegated from he top division.
Much credit should be given to veteran coach Johor Das, who has been tactically superb.
Much will rest on the shoulders of his star striker Joel Sunday Ayeni, who scored the opening goal in their last game against Sporting.
Aizawl will be missing their captain David Lalrinmuana who has to sit out the tie because of a red card offence in their previous outing.