Mumbai: The arrival of Ghanaian Yusif Yakubu has significantly boosted the East Bengal strike power ahead of their tough second round I-League clash against top Mumbai outfit Mahindra United here on Wednesday.
Yakubu was sorely missed by East Bengal in their lung-opener against Pune FC and the glamour outfit from Kolkata had to share points with the league debutants after a goalless draw at the Balewadi complex on October 3.
Against Pune FC, the EB frontline was without the requisite firepower even in the presence of India captain Bhaichung Bhutia who is in the midst of his legal tussle with the club's arch-Kolkata rivals Mohun Bagan.
Coach Subhas Bhowmick would be tempted to field the experienced Yakubu with Bhutia from the beginning despite his arrival only last evening at the Cooperage ground which has taken a heavy beating from the unseasonal heavy downpour over the last few days.
Mahindra United's stopper backs Dharmaraj Ravanan and Kali Alaudeen Nishtar had effectively bottled up dangerous striker and last season's top scorer Odafa Okolie in the 1-1 draw against defending champions Churchill Brothers of Goa in the opening tie of the league on October 1.
The Tamil Nadu duo and fellow-defenders N P Pradeep and captain Krishnan Ajayan would have their hands full in trying to stop Yakubu/Subhash Singh and Bhutia from bamboozling their way into the danger area in the high-pressure clash.
Bhutia would play with more freedom as Bagan have failed to stop him from playing for city arch-rivals East Bengal following the rejection of Bagan's plea for a stay order on the national captain by the the AIFF-appointed arbitrator Amarendra Sharan.
Bagan had lodged an appeal with arbitrator Sharan for a 15-day stay on the interim relief granted to Bhutia to play for East Bengal that got rejected which should leave the India skipper's mind totally focused on the match.
However, to be effective the East Bengal forwards would need continuous feeds from the midfield if they have to break open a determined Mahindra defence.
Mahindra, on the other hand, go into the tough tie with their morale high after the draw against holders Churchill Brothers in the tie that the 2005-06 league winners dominated.
The forwardline of Mohd Rafi and Muritala Ali looked short of confidence in converting the chances that came their way from a very active midfield spearheaded by India star Steven Dias and tall Serbian Svetozar Mijin.
A top-drawer match is in the offing provided the rains keep away and the ground is dry.