Shillong, Feb 17: Shillong Lajong will have a monumental challenge ahead of them when they take on I-League 2018-19 title contenders Chennai City at the JN Stadium here tomorrow. Kick-off is at 5PM.
East Bengal (three points behind Chennai with a match in hand) will be involved with Churchill Brothers (who are wilting as the season approaches a close) later today and could threaten Chennai’s top spot in the standings, so the latter are going to want to take full points against Lajong.
East Bengal and second-placed Real Kashmir have both beaten Lajong in Shillong this season, so Chennai aren’t going to want to drop any points at all in their clash tomorrow.
Lajong come into the game after a 5-0 pasting at the hands of East Bengal in Kolkata on 14th February. Two wins in a row for Lajong prior could not be turned into three as the steam they had built up after beating Minerva Punjab and Churchill Brothers ran out.
5-0 may seem disastrous, but margins of victory are not all that important for Lajong. Having scored 17 goals and conceded 44, goal difference will not come into play in separating SLFC from any other teams. Wins are what matter and Lajong need another inspiring victory of the sort that saw them beat Churchill 3-2 the last time the Reds played in Shillong.
Playing East Bengal away was always going to be difficult, especially as the Kolkata giants are on winning streak. Chennai, however, are in danger of having peaked too soon. Their last game saw them give up a three-goal lead at NEROCA to draw 3-3 on 11th February.
Their only win in the last three games saw them beat Indian Arrows 2-0. The match before that saw them pipped by Real Kashmir 1-0.
Chennai concede a lot of goals – 21 to be exact. The way they’ve been able to win matches, however, is to score even more than they give away. That is an especially risky strategy, though, if their star players like Pedro Manzi, who is second in the race for the Golden Boot with 16 goals, somehow fails to find the back of the net.
And that could be Lajong’s best hope of picking up a win. The last time these two sides met Chennai romped to a 6-1 victory in Coimbatore. But, again, margins of victory or defeat don’t matter for the Reds. A win will take them to 13 points, which would put them level with 10-placed Gokulam Kerala. That’s what matters.
(TSR file photo)