Founded: 1st August, 1920
Ground: Salt Lake Stadium (I-League), Kolkata.
East Bengal Ground (CFL), Kolkata.
Capacity: Salt Lake-68,000;
East Bengal Ground-23,500
Chairman: Ajit Isaac
Manager: Alejandro Menéndez
2017–18: I-League: 4th (10 teams)
Last season East Bengal finished an underwhelming fourth, one place behind Mohun Bagan on goal difference. Despite scoring the highest number of goals (32), the campaign was hampered by a high number of drawn matches.
The start of the new season has not been positive either. They managed to finish third in a two-horse race in the Calcutta Football League. It didn’t help they lost their grip on the local league after an eight-year dominance to their arch-rivals, Mohun Bagan.
The Red and Gold are yet to win an I-League title. The arrival of new investors in the shape of Quess Corporation could inject some fresh funds for one of the most celebrated teams in Indian football.
The club spent their pre-season at Malaysia and played a couple of matches against Liga Premier Clubs and a Super League club. They defeated UiTM FC 5-1, held Terengannu FC to a goalless draw, defeated Persatuan Bolasepak Polis Di-Raja Malaysia (PDRM FA) 6-2 and had a game with UKMFC washed out due to incessant rains.
Alejandro Menendez’s coaching experience has been mainly centered in his native Spain. He spent five years coaching the youth setup at Sporting Gijon and Real Madrid before managing reserve squads like with Celta B and Real Madrid Castilla. Interestingly, he replaced Julen Lopetegui for the Castilla job and was one of the assistants to Jose Mourinho.
After a brief stint as head coach of Celta in 2008, he went on to manage Racing Santander in Segunda Division.
Menendez left the comforts of Spain and joined Buriram United FC for the 2013/14 Thai Premier League season, where he won the domestic treble in his first season in charge. He caught the eyes of the Chinese League One side, Shaanxi Wuzhou. Unfortunately for him, due to bureaucratic problems, he had to terminate his stay in China. He returned to Spain to manage Celta B and Burgos CF before signing up for East Bengal.
The Spaniard has nurtured talents like Alvaro Morata, Dani Carvajal, Marcos Alonso, Nacho and Denis Cheryshev during his time at Real Madrid Castilla. Closer home, Bengaluru FC’s Juanan Gonzalez also played under Menendez at Castilla.
What to Expect
On paper, East Bengal has a strong squad, but Menendez has to get the balance right. The attacking trio of Enrique Esqueda, Jobby Justin, and Laldanmawia will cause problems for the oppositions.
Lalrindika Ralte and Mahmoud Amnah will provide the creativity in the midfield, while new recruit Kassim Aidara will shield the defense. Acosta will be paired with Borja Gomez in central defense while the Mizo full backs – Lalramchullova and Lalrozama Fanai will help stretch the opposition. Rakshit Dagar could be in goal.
The Red and Golds must improve on their away form to have any chance of a challenging for the title. Also, it might help if they can start beating their crosstown rivals – something they have failed to do so in two years.