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ISL: SC East Bengal keen to begin with win after last year's dismal show

Vasco da Gama (Goa), Nov 21 (IANS) SC East Bengal (SCEB) would be hoping to begin their campaign in the 2022 edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) on a winning note after finishing ninth last time, when they take on Jamshedpur FC in their opening match at the Tilak Maidan Stadium here later on Sunday.

The Red and Gold Brigade couldn't make much of an impact in their inaugural season and would be eyeing three points to kick-start their ISL 2022 campaign with a win against the Red Miners, who too could not make it to the top-four last season, finishing sixth.

SCEB begin their campaign on the back of an unbeaten run in their pre-season friendlies, winning three out of four games and drawing against defending ISL champions Mumbai City FC. Jamshedpur FC too remained unbeaten in their pre-season friendlies, winning three out of four games and drawing against Bengaluru FC.

Following the departure of Robbie Fowler as head coach, SCEB have roped in former Real Madrid Castilla manager Manolo Diaz and addressed their defensive concerns by signing ATK Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharja. They have also signed former Australian national team defender Tomislav Mrcela, who will be pairing up with former Lazio defender Franjo Prce. The midfield will be manned by India U-23 international Amarjit Singh who will be supported by Md. Rafique, Jackichand Singh and Bikash Jairu.

Bhattacharja would be tasked with providing stability to a defensive line that looked vulnerable last season. The custodian had a great 2020/21 season with ATK Mohun Bagan, who finished runners-up, as he kept 10 clean sheets, made 59 saves, and conceded just 19 goals in 23 games.

Jamshedpur FC too have made six key foreign signings, including experienced English defender Peter Hartley and Australian forward Jordan Murray. Bolstering the midfield will be the Brazilian duo of Eli Sabia and Alex Lima, who will be joined by Scottish attacking midfielder Greg Stewart.

SC East Bengal have played 11 games of the ISL 2020/21 season at the Tilak Maidan Stadium, winning just one, against Odisha on January 3. That win was their first and only win in the ISL. They drew five and lost another five. The Red and Gold Brigade also conceded 16 goals at this stadium, the most by any team in the last season.