HEAVYWEIGHTS EAST BENGAL will be seeking their first win in three I-League football matches to move to the second spot when they entertain newcomers DSK Shivajians in Kolkata on Tuesday.
East Bengal have accumulated five points from three matches to be third in the standings and approach the contest on the back of a 1-1 draw against traditional rivals Mohun Bagan in the Kolkata derby match on Saturday.
It was their second successive draw in the tournament after being held 0-0 by Mumbai FC away on January 17.
They started with an inspiring 3-1 away win against Sporting Clube de Goa that ignited their title winning aspirations.
But two consecutive draws have left them four points off the place. Bengaluru FC are top with a maximum nine points after three matches. Second-positioned Mohun Bagan are above East Bengal by two points.
Coach Biswajit Bhattacharya will be hoping his side will log three points against the newcomers, in the seventh place with just a point after two matches.
The home side is expected to make short work of the debutants who have a largely inexperienced side and come into the match on the back of a 0-2 defeat against Aizawl FC.
DSK's best known face is India international goalkeeper Subrata Paul and Ivorian central midfielder Douhou Pierre.
East Bengal will once again rely on their Nigerian goal machine Ranti Martins, who is gung-ho after his strike against Mohun Bagan.
The veteran striker was criticised in the early part of the season for his slow form but he sprung back into life when it matters most, scoring thrice in three matches.
He will be assisted by South Korean playmaker Do Dong-Hyun whose stalk has dramatically lessened after his underwhelming performance in the derby, having scored twice in the prestigious match earlier in the season in the Calcutta Football League (CFL).
Dong is also troubled by a niggling leg injury but the impressive performance of left winger Bikash Jairu would give Bhattacharya renewed hope.
East Bengal's draw against Mohun Bagan was particularly encouraging as they were weakened by the absence of several A-listers and are still awaiting the arrival of their fourth foreigner - French defender Bernard Mendy.
Mendy's arrival is keenly awaited as his experience and guile is much required by the team's perforated defence which failed to hold on to the lead given by Martins in the derby.
Yet that shouldn't prove to be an obstacle for the three-time national champions as they are under pressure to win their first I-League crown, especially after Mohun Bagan's trophy win last season.