The Kolkata outfit will be gunning for their first away win but with injuries wreaking havoc, they might be vulnerable against a desperate victory seeking Lajong...
Round five of the I-League’s fixtures takes us to Shillong where the Thangboi Singto’s Reds clash with Eelco Schattorie’s Purple brigade. Though relatively early in the season, this game’s importance mustn’t be undermined as it includes two teams who desperately need a win which could have a big say on each other’s I-League form further down the line.
Shillong Lajong’s purple patch seems to have been cut short. Until round three of the I-League, they’d been punching with the new boys Bengaluru FC at the top of the table but a sudden dip in form, culminating in losses against Sporting Clube de Goa and a thumping to East Bengal have seen them slide majestically down the table. The team are currently in eighth position.
Two consecutive home losses will put the pressure right back on any coach and Singto is no different. He will look to secure all three points against a United SC side that is yet to win away this season.
He has the whole squad at his disposal minus full back C.Lallawmzuala, who is out with an ankle injury. Cornell Glen is their top scorer but his major contribution has been the brace against Dempo on the opening day of the season and he will no doubt look to set that right.
A major area for concern with Lajong has been their inability to convert chances and Singto said they will address all the problems effectively adding, “We are definitely looking for a win and our team will give 100% in the field.”
So it is up against a resolute and determined Reds that Schattorie takes his side to duel. Yet, United SC find themselves winless away and the coach will know that this is as good as any opportunity to convert that record.
However, the Dutchman finds his squad stripped to the bones as Tapan Maity and Lalkamal Bhowmick have both been added to an already bulging injury list. They seem to out of cohesion for large parts of the game given that they started their pre-season late on account of financial problems off the field.
Highlighting his problems, Schattorie elucidated, "We played four games and each time with a different team. We are not able to create the stability I want due to the off the field issues and injuries. Tapan and Lalkamal are still injured when (Mohamed) Rafique hasn’t t returned after representing his office side. Deepak Mondal hasn’t trained all week.”
Added to United SC’s woes, Schattorie himself is banned from the touchline. He hopes the referee for the game, who incidentally sent him to the stands against Bengaluru, “keeps professional” in plain words.
Added to this, United SC’s preparations have had a spanner thrown into them, with political tensions gripping the north eastern state preventing them from adequate training and acclimatizing fully with the temperature and lighting conditions. But, he will be expected to field his strongest available eleven, which is capable in its own right to do the job.
The records favour United SC with them having won three of their last five encounters against the Reds. Yet, this time around, a new order could establish itself as Lajong will go all out to hamper any progress made by the purple army.
It is going to be an interesting tie to watch tactically.
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