KOLKATA: Kolkata giants East Bengal kick-started their pre-season preparations on Monday with more than 200 fans present to welcome the players at club ground.

The defending Calcutta Football League Premier Division champions will be looking at launching their title defense under newly appointed head coach Khalid Jamil for the upcoming season.

After concluding a fantastic 2016/17 season which saw them win the CFL Premier Division for the seventh successive time and finish 3rd in the I-League, the Red and Golds are confident of defending their title back in Kolkata and do better in the national stage.

The core of the Indian contingent has been retained by the club, who have the likes of Arnab Mondal, Gurwinder Singh, Mohammad Rafique, Cavin Lobo, Samad Ali Mallick, Deepak Kumar and Luis Barreto in their ranks.

Meanwhile, the club has also secured the services of some exciting talents such as Brandon Vanlalremdika, Lalramchullova, Laldanmawia Ralte, Gabriel Fernandes, Salam Ranjan Singh, Richard Costa and Surabuddin Mallick. Beside promoting 7 academy players in Rahul Ghosh, Mehtab Singh, Yami Longvah, Prakash Sarkar, Bidyashagar Singh, Suranjit Singh and Lalcchanhima to senior team.

Speaking to the media coach Jamil said: “We have launched the pre-season with our focus on the CFL; which is our prime objective currently. We have a busy season ahead, so we have to keep our squad fit and free from injury.”

The club has decided to retain the services of Trinidadian forward Willis Plaza, who will join the team later this month as the 29-year-old has made into the Trinidad & Tobago national side for their upcoming friendly against Ecuador on July 26.

The other two foreigners in Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna and Trinidadian defender Carlyle Mitchell is expected to join club’s pre-season training next week.

The pre-season program will last a little less than a month would see East Bengal play a few practice games to set new combinations and fine tune the players ahead of the new season.

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