East Bengal, Churchill Brothers Lock Horns in Clash of Contenders
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Kolkata, Feb 16 (PTI) In red hot form, East Bengal will aim for a fifth win on the trot and go level with leaders Chennai City FC when the home favourites face another title contenders, Churchill Brothers, in an I-League clash here on Sunday.

East Bengal are unbeaten from 10 matches with their last loss coming way back on December 4, a solitary goal reversal at Minerva Punjab.

They are coming off a 5-0 demolition of Shillong Lajong FC. But come Sunday, East Bengal will face one of the biggest hurdles in their title quest as the fourth-placed Goans will be desperate to arrest their slide following a 1-1 draw at home against Mohun Bagan in their last fixture.

The two-time former champions have 30 points from 17 matches, while East Bengal (31) occupy the third place from 15 matches.

East Bengal discard Willis Plaza will look to prove a point against his former side. Having impressed in the Goa Pro League and Super Cup, the Trinidad and Tobago striker has grabbed headlines in the I-League and is a big contender for the golden boot, leading the chart with 17 goals.

East Bengal have a solid backline in Borja Gomej and Johnny Acosta but the duo will not have it easy as coach Alejandro Menendez will be busy plotting his strategy.

Plaza would be hungry to score and prove a point against his former team, even as he denied that he will not look to settle scores.

"I don't want to prove anything to East Bengal. I have to prove myself in every game I play. We still have three more games and we can nine points," Plaza said.

"We still have the confidence and belief that we can do it. East Bengal defence is good definitely but our attack is also good."

Churchill's Romanian coach Petre Gigiu said he would miss out on Hussein Eldor, Dawda Ceesay, N Mohanraj and Richard Costa.

But with Plaza combining well with Dawda Ceesay and Anthony Wolfe up front, it would be an interesting battle.

Terming Churchill a dangerous side, Spaniard coach Menendez said: "This is a difficult team. They have always been very close to the top of the table and they score very easily. If a team scores a lot they are always a dangerous team."

"We have our plans set to win against Churchill Brothers team and not Willis Plaza alone, Menendez said, adding that they will play with confidence and not over confidence.

"I prepare for winning matches and when I prepare the defence it is to counter a whole team and not just one player."

Fresh from his hat-trick against Shillong Lajong FC, Laldanmawia Ralte will look to add to his tally. The onus will also lie on the East Bengal troika of Jaime Santos, Jobby Justin and Enrique Esqueda.

"We will try our best for sure but now it is very difficult for us to recuperate. We have only three games left but East Bengal have five matches to go.

"Collectively as a group, East Bengal are very strong. They have very good players, very good foreigners. They play as a group and that is their strength," Churchill coach Gigiu said.

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