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 November 18, 2002 | 1630 IST

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Vasco face tough task
against Bagan

Defending champions Mohun Bagan, smarting from the 6-0 defeat they suffered against Taejon Citizen in the AFC Champions League, begin their campaign in the seventh edition of the National Football League with a match against Vasco, in Goa, on Tuesday. Despite injury problems to their key strikers -- skipper Baichung Bhutia and Jose Ramirez Barreto -- they are expected to take full points from the outing at the Nehru stadium.

Bhutia and Barreto were part of the contingent that arrived in Goa on Sunday but coach Subrata Bhattacharya informed that they are unlikely to play in the match as both are carrying injuries. Barreto has a thigh injury while Bhutia has a blood clot in his leg cuff muscle. Bhattacharya, however, said a decision on their inclusion will be made only on the morning of the match.

Having lost their opening match to state mates Dempo, the Arlem-sponsored Vasco are determined to snatch at least a point from the fixture. But to do that they will have to tighten up their defence and sharpen their finishing. They strikers had quite many chances in the match against Dempo but prodigality in front of goal proved their undoing.

Their midfield of Brazilian Marcus Pereira, Abhay Kumar, Riston Rodriques and Jules Alberto looks strong but the striking trio of Rui Wanderely, Nitin Pradhan and Agnelo Gomes will have to capitalise on the opportunities created for them.

In defence, Franky Barretto, Seby Dias, Selwyn Fernandes, Sanjay Parte or V B Santosh have the tough task of containing S Sanjeev and Sunil Chettri, who could be the replacements for Bhutia and Barreto. If they are able to get their act together, then Bagan will surely find the going tough.

Vasco coach Derrick Pereira sounded optimistic about his team doing well. "We have forgotten about the loss to Dempo and are ready for Bagan. Our main aim is to collect full points; we will go all out for that," he said.

The Bagan midfield of Nigerian George Ekeh, Basudev Mondal, Kajol Bhattacharya, Renedy Singh or Jayant Sen looks enterprising, but the main chink in the Kolkata giants' armoury appears to be their defence which is manned by Satish Bharti, Loleindra Singh and Dulal Biswas. However, the acquisition of Nigerian Isha Musa Eroje should bring a semblance of solidity.

Bagan coach Bhattacharya dismissed suggestions that beating Vasco should be a formality. "Our team will not take Vasco easy. They are a strong team with three foreign players. Besides, they are playing on home ground. We will go all out to snatch full points," he said.

ITI take on Indian Bank

Aiming for top six finish, Bangalore giants ITI take on Indian Bank, Chennai, in their first National Football league tie in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Shabbir Ali, who had coached Salgaocar earlier, is looking forward to a successful stint with ITI, which will have the services of players from Ghana this year.

Promoted Indian Bank, who have been elevated to the Senior league along with Dempo, are being trained by former Kerala ace V P Sathyan and have been preparing hard for the past two months.

They also have a couple of Sri Lankan players in Imran Mohamed and Kusan Jayasurya, and are looking out for two more from Nigeria, who are currently on trial.

ITI, who finished seventh in the last edition of the league, will go all out to improve their position. Shabir Ali is keeping his cards close to his chest. He refused to say whether he will field both his prized possessions from Ghana, Ibrahim Awal and Ibrahim Bala.

Complete Coverage: 7th National Football League 2002-03