East Bengal’s Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez feels the I-League’s first derby of the season against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan is crucial in terms of deciding the fate of the two teams in the competition.

Both the traditional heavyweights have had a poor first start to their campaign with East Bengal having a slight advantage — sitting sixth in the points table with nine points from six games. Mohun Bagan are placed eighth with nine points from six games.

Both the teams are eight points adrift of surprise leaders Chennai City FC and cannot afford any more slip-ups if they are to harbour any hopes of reviving their campaign.

“The match is very important for everyone, for fans, for us and for the championship. We will try to win for our supporters. We will give our best for the fans tomorrow,” Menendez told reporters in the pre-match presser.

In his first derby, Menendez said he understands the emotional importance of this game too and the team with better spirit will win on the morrow.

“This type of matches are very important from an emotional perspective. It is difficult for both the teams. The team which shows better spirit will win tomorrow. This is similar to (Real) Madrid (FC) Barcelona or (Real) Madrid Atletico (Madrid). The fans start preparing for one week prior,” he added.

East Bengal will miss the services of Spanish forward Enrique Esqueda, who has been ruled out due to a rib injury.

Asked if his absence would be felt, Menendez said although Esqueda is their ‘main player’, he cannot dwell on his loss.

“Enrique is our main scorer. It is a problem for us if he doesn’t play. But we have to think about a solution to that problem,” expressed Menendez.

Esqueda said he is not thinking about players who are not there.

“I am not thinking about someone who is not available. I am thinking about players who are available tomorrow,”

“At this time I have to think about the players who are available in opponent team. Injuries are normal at this stage of the season.”

Mohun Bagan will be missing the services of star winger Sony Norde, who is out with a muscle tear.

Despite Norde’s absence, Mohun Bagan have a potent attack with Henry Kisseka and Dipanda Dicka up front.

“Their attacking part is the strongest and we have to take care of that,” admitted the East Bengal coach.

East Bengal have been sturdy at the back with Jonny Acosta showing good form. In the last match, the Costa Rican World Cupper was relegated to the bench against Gokulam Kerala and Salam Ranjan Singh was tested at the heart of defence alongside Borja Gomez.

And the new defensive pairing did pass the test with flying colours.

(IANS Inputs)