There’s an air of quiet confidence at the Dempo Sports Club House as players assemble after practice for one last body massage on the eve of “Battle Royale” againstEast Bengal. Ask players like Climax Lawrence, Samir Naik, Mahesh Gawli- veterans of many a battles- and they will tell you how difficult it will be to play against a team like East Bengal. But the quiet confidence in the Dempo camp stems from the fact that they have been there and done that- four times previously and tomorrow will be no different.
But Friday the 20th will be different in many ways than one. It will be different because as The Super Eagles take the field, they know that after ninety minutes they could create history and add another feather to this clubs already illustrious cap. A draw againstEast Bengal and Dempo will overtake the Red and Gold’s to become the most successful club in Indian football history with five I-League titles to its credit. And the man behind the Dempo renaissance is calm and composed before the huge clash against Trevor Morgan’sEast Bengal. “I have faith in my boys. We are trying to wrap up the title as quickly as possible. Tough matches always brings out the best in us.” Said head coach Armando Colaco as he watched the boys in training for one last time before Fridays match.
Dempo after having a dream to start to the campaign with seven wins on the trot suffered a blip in the middle, but regained momentum to remain in touching distance of the title. Their last three matches though have been champion stuff. Against Mohun Bagan, they were down 1-2 at Kolkata but fought back to draw 2-2. Against Churchill too, they had their backs against the wall after twin strikes from Beto put Churchill ahead just after the restart. But again, there was a brilliant fightback and character shown by Dempo’s players who over turned the deficit to win 4-2. The final scoreline against Sporting Clube de Goa suggested that Dempo had a walk in the park but at half time the game would have swung both ways, after being tied 1-1.
Dempo are still sweating on the fitness of their captain Mahesh Gawli and a decision will be taken a couple of hours before kick off. Subhasish Roy Chowdhury will in all probability return to the starting line-up and guard the goal while Clifford Miranda will return back from suspension. The rest of the team will renmain unchanged. Should Mahesh fail a fitness test before the game, then his place will be taken by young Rowilson Rodrigues who has been brilliant in the twogames that he has played against Sporting and Churchill. Once again the midfield duo of Climax Lawrence and Densill Theobald will hold the key to the fortunes of this game as their battle against theEast Bengalmidfield duo of Penn Orji and Mehtab Hossain will be the deciding factor of this game.East Bengalwill be without the services of stopper back Uga Okpara who is out due to a double booking.
All eyes will be on Ranty Martins who with 31 goals is the highest goal scorer of the league ahead of Odafa Okolie who is on 27 goals.
A full house is expected at the Nehru Stadium in what is billed as the decider of this years I–League.