Thrice champions East Bengal, plagued by injury and the absence of foreigners, take on local challengers Mohammedan Sporting in an ONGC Cup 10th National Football League match in Kolkata on Tuesday.
A big name in Indian soccer, East Bengal are yet to win any tournament this year, and the fact that they have roped in only one foreigner so far betrays the lack of preparedness of the team that has for the first time appointed a foreign coach in Belgian Philippe de Ridder.
Under Ridder, who took charge of the side last month after then coach Subhas Bhowmick quit in controversial circumstances, East Bengal would have their first match-feel on the morrow.
But what is bound to give anxious moments to the Belgian is the side-strain induced absence of the only foreigner Mike Okoro of Nigeria.
With M Suresh, Arun Malhotra, Jatin Bisht, skipper Dipankar Roy and Chandan Das also on the injured list, Ridder may have a problem fielding a proper combination at the Salt Lake stadium.
In such a scenario, striking ace Baichung Bhutia will have to shoulder a lot of load upfront, and on him would largely hinge East Bengal's prospects in the match.