I-League 2018-19: Alejandro Menendez wants East Bengal to operate with pace

The East Bengal boss wants his team to generate more pace in order to counter the youngsters of Shillong Lajong….

East Bengal will be eyeing their fourth consecutive I-League win when they take on relegation-threatened Shillong Lajong on Thursday.

East Bengal are flying high at the moment and are in the mix to win the title. They are six points behind league leaders Chennai City FC but have played two games less.

Although the Kolkata club have a major chance of finally winning the league title, coach Alejandro Menendez is not thinking about the league.

He said, “We have to think positive and enjoy every game. The most important thing is that everybody in the team enjoys their game and tries to achieve success.”

The Spanish coach emphasised that his team must play with great pace in order to counter the opposition. He said, “I think the speed in a match is always important. And now as we are advancing in the league all the teams are playing with great speed not only with the ball but also off the ball. You have to operate really fast.”

The former Real Madrid Castilla coach is in no mood to undermine the abilities of their opponents who are in the bottom half of the table.

He said, “We have to respect our opponents. They are a young team but they have many good players. If we don’t respect the opposition we will not win the match. We go to have maximum respect for the opposition.

“I think two important aspects about Shillong Lajong are that they love to keep the possession of the ball and they are doing it well. They put many players in the central zone and play several combinations of passes. Also, they have to very fast strikers and are good in counter attacks.”

Menendez revealed that he is yet to finalise the starting XI for the match against Lajong. “I still don’t know who will start tomorrow against Shillong Lajong. It is a problem for me to choose 11 players but it is a good problem to have,” said the East Bengal coach.

Alison Kharsyntiew, Shillong Lajong FC academy coach

Lajong coach Alison Kharsyntiew is banking on the confidence his team gathered after registering back-to-back wins against Minerva Punjab and Churchill Brothers.

He said, “We played Minerva Punjab away and won and then played Churchill Brothers at home and won again. I think those results gave us the belief that we can beat any team. But to play against East Bengal it will be difficult because East Bengal are a big club with so many good players. It will be a very good game and I hope the players do well and we get the three points.”

In order to stop East Bengal, Kharsyntiew is depending on solid defence and teamwork. He said, “We have to defend well individually but the main thing is that East Bengal have many good players and not only Jobby Justin. They have Enrique (Esqueda), Jaime Santos. So we have to mark them very well.

“Our main strength is teamwork. We have played well and scored many goals so I hope tomorrow my boys score goals and play well.”