Shillong, Mar 4: Shillong Lajong FC will meet East Bengal in their final match of I-League 2017-18 tomorrow and are aiming for a victory that will guarantee them fifth place in the table as well as direct entry into the upcoming Super Cup.
Kick-off at the JN Stadium here will be at 5:30PM.
Everyone is available for East Bengal in the game except for defender Eduardo Ferreira, their dour coach Khalid Jamil informed, while Lajong will miss out on key midfielder Hardycliff Nongbri, who sustained an ankle injury early on in the last match against Aizawl FC.
The hosts reversed a long series of poor results with a 2-1 win over Aizawl last month at home. That was a morale boosting win and since then Lajong have had a long break to recuperate, something assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew labeled as important.
“The long break won’t affect us [negatively]. We needed the break because we had too many matches and we’ll be playing with fresh legs tomorrow,” Kharsyntiew said at the pre-match press conference today.
He identified Katsumi Yusa, Ansumana Kromah, and Mahmoud Al-Amna as three of the players in the opposition squad his boys will have to watch out for.
Lajong are currently in sixth position with 21 points. Victory in their final match will take them level on 24 with Aizawl, but the Reds will be in front in fifth on head-to-head, which would match their best-ever result last season.
The home team have a bad record when it comes to season-ending matches, except, that is, when playing East Bengal – Lajong have beaten the Kolkata side on all three occasions when they have faced them in the final match of an I-League campaign.
“We’ve been working on all departments,” Kharsyntiew said, adding, “Both teams will feel the pressure and I’ve been telling the players to go play like it’s the last game of their life.”
Also at the press conference from Lajong was defender Aiban Dohling. He’s featured in the team’s last three games and has made a strong comeback after months out with a serious leg injury.
“It feels good to be back and contributing to the team. I hope we’ll do well in the last game of the season and we’ll try our best to get three points,” he said.
Meanwhile, a win in this, their penultimate match, as well as their last against NEROCA on 8th March will give East Bengal the title.
With Polo Grounds occupied during the day with election results, East Bengal practised under floodlights at the venue yesterday, which should resemble conditions on match day.
“It’s a vital match and we’re playing a good team, so everyone must give 100 percent from defence to midfield. The boys know everything they need to know to win a match,” Jamil said. “We have to think positively and not think about anything else,” he added, referring to their position in the standings.
The Red & Golds have won eight games so far and have only lost thrice – twice to Mohun Bagan and a shocker to Gokulam Kerala. East Bengal thrashed SLFC 5-1 in the first leg fixture in December and the visitors are currently in fourth place after Saturday’s 2-1 victory for Mohun Bagan over Churchill Brothers, though EB have a game in hand over the top three.