Meghalaya outfit Shillong Lajong will welcome Kolkata Derby winners Mohun Bagan, as the two will lock horns in the 2016-17 I-League on Wednesday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Both the teams head into the clash in high spirits following a great victory in their latest fixtures.
Speaking of the encounter, Lajong head coach Thangboi Singto believes opponents Bagan could put up a tough contest following their commendable run of results, lately. The Manipuri has stated that his side will have to perform better than they did in Pune a few days back, if they aim for a decent result against the Mariners.
''The way Mohun Bagan has played against East Bengal and Bengaluru (FC) in the last two matches, I think they’re really on fire. But tomorrow, we have to play much much better than how we played against DSK (Shivajians) to get some result against Mohun Bagan. Because, at the moment, they’re fighting for the championship and Shillong Lajong is also looking at trying to get higher up the table, ending in a better position this season,'' commented the 42-year-old.
The fourth placed team has scored 21 goals but has also conceded as many as 18 goals, hereby keeping their goal difference to just +3. Head coach Singto thinks the leaky backline is a major concern for his side. The gaffer explained that the defenders are relatively younger and are still learning, which is why the Reds have been sloppy at the back.
''I think playing more of an Indian backline, who are still learning the ropes of defending as they grow as a player, (comes into highlight). If you see Sana (Chinglensana Singh), he’s U-22, Nim Dorjee (captain) is an U-22 player, Pritam (Kumar Singh) is again U-22, Samuel Shadap, of course, is a bit senior and Vishal Kaith-he’s been doing well, but we’ve been conceding goals which we shouldn’t have- against Aizawl FC , away, against DSK (Shivajians) at home and then away.
So, I think this is an area of concern. It’s not that we’re not working on that. I think we have to keep working on it. That’s why I say we need to have more clean sheets which is not easy but has been our target which we haven’t been able to achieve but we are working on that,'' revealed Singto.
Lajong has always given importance to the youngsters in the side and Singto feels the club's youth policy has proven to be successful. The boss mentioned that he is glad with the lads' performances and reckons to continue witnessing the same.
''It (youth policy) is the management’s call and with all due respect, I think it’s bearing fruit. I am very happy that the young players could score in the last match but the truth is that we can’t always depend on the striker for all the goals. Same (is) with Mohun Bagan. I am happy that the boys are scoring and I hope that their form will continue,'' he asserted.
Talking about Romanian defender Dan Ignat, Singto disclosed that the 30-year-old is capable of playing but the excellence of Chinglensana Singh and Nim Dorjee keeps him away from the starting XI. Further, he voiced that he hopes Brazilian Fabio Pena to be included in the squad for Wednesday's encounter with the visitors.
''Dan (Ignat) is fit, he is ready, he is very professional. He trains very well and gives his best. The only thing for me is that these two young boys Sana (Chinglensana Singh) and Nim (Dorjee) have been doing very well and giving us results so that’s it. But I believe that whenever Dan (Ignat) comes back, he will be ready to contribute to the team, that’s for sure.
As for Fabio, (Pena) he trained yesterday, we’ll see today and hopefully he’ll be ready for tomorrow,'' concluded the home team's manager.
On the other hand, visiting team head coach Sanjoy Sen believes the remaining set of fixtures will be very crucial for the Maroon and Green Brigade in deciding their odds for winning the league title.
''The status now is definitely that we are in the second position and all the remaining matches are now finals for us. Tomorrow’s match is one of the final and for sure, we should try to win the match but we should not be complacent. It’s gonna be a hard fought match. It is definitely one of the toughest remaining fixtures we have but if we are to be champions we should be winning all these matches because we don’t have too many matches left,'' he expressed.
Cameroonian forward Aser Pierrick Dipanda has been one of the key players in Lajong's attack. The 28-year-old striker has stuck nine goals in 14 games and will definitely trouble Mohun Bagan's defenders. On being quizzed if the Kolkata side will man mark Dipanda, Sen answered that his side will have to be alert to deny all Lajong players any chances, including Dipanda.
''We will have to definitely man mark Dipanda but we also have to watch the whole team because in the last match their three U-22 players scored. So while we are dealing with Dicka, someone could come out of anywhere and score. So, we have to keep track of every player, not just (Aser) Dipanda,'' he signed off.