SHILLONG: Shillong Lajong FC is aiming for three points when they take on against the I-league table toppers East Bengal at the J N Stadium here in Meghalaya.
Lajong have an exceptional record against the Kolkata club, having defeated them on four out of six occasions at home in the competition, their best record against any long-standing I-League club.
For their part, this year’s current table toppers East Bengal have only won once, back in 2013-14.
However, Red and Gold brigade have had excellent away form this season, winning four out of their five games on the road and tomorrow’s match thus promises to be an exciting contest.
The two sides have already met this season when East Bengal played host to Lajong in Siliguri on February 15 in a match that ended 1-1.
“Drawing against East Bengal earned a good point for us and we also had a good result against Chennai,” Lajong coach Thangboi Singto said at the pre-match press conference here.
“We need to stick to the basics and defend much better than we have done in the past; we should have kept a clean sheet against Chennai. We cannot afford any defensive lapses against East Bengal, who I feel have the strongest and most-balanced team in the I-League,” he added.
Singto also said that the East Bengal squad has a number of players who are well known to Lajong, which enables the home team to develop a plan to neutralise them.
Lajong received a shot in the arm this week with the re-signing of key defender and crowd favourite Aiborlang Khongjee. Singto informed that Khongjee will figure in tomorrow’s squad, but given that he has had only a few training sessions with the club, he may not play the full 90 minutes.
“I am very happy to have Aibor back. It was always the plan, but he had personal commitments at the start of the season and we respected that. His presence brings a lot of strength and depth to our back line,” he stated.
Going up against Singto is a familiar face at East Bengal, that of their coach Trevor Morgan.
With his side at the top of the table on 24 points with just one defeat in 11 fixtures, the situation is a comfortable one, but Morgan knows that the game against Lajong will be a big test for his boys.
“We are in a good position and we know what we have to do tomorrow and we can’t use not having a good record here as an excuse. It’s going to be a tough game. We’ve set ourselves to win, but if on the day we can’t win then it’s important for us not to lose,” Morgan said.
“It’s a very competitive season this year with any team able to beat any other team,” he added.
East Bengal are coming into the match after having outplayed defending champions Bengaluru FC 3-1 away, their first victory in four games, and their coach said that the squad will be very similar in tomorrow’s contest.
Featured image(courtesy): Shillong Lajong Football Club (SLFC)