As Shillong Lajong prepare to take on Chennai City FC at Chennai, it was the weather (which is vastly different to that of Shillong) that was one of the talking points. Commenting on that, head coach Thangboi Singto felt that his team needs to start playing well in away games, regardless of the weather.
"Well, all these years in the I-League we have struggled on the road. It is difficult to pinpoint whether it is due to weather. I think it's good we are playing at 7 pm on Sunday. We are trying to better our away performances. This is a new place for us. We have done well at home and the last game we drew against East Bengal. Hopefully, that confidence helps us," he remarked.
It is worth noting that Shillong Lajong are winless in their last 14 I-League away games. But they have remained committed to the policy of giving a host of youngsters the chance to play in India's premier footballing league. Singto elaborated on the topic and said, "We have always promoted youngsters. It didn’t start this year. We selected a bunch of youngsters three-to-four years back. They have more experience now and learnt a lot over the years. The culmination of all this has helped them do well for the team. If you are given an opportunity in India’s top league, you need to take them. So I expect them to grab their chances well."
He went on to concede that defeating Chennai City was no easy proposition with the Southerners possessing a lot of experienced campaigners. "If you look at Chennai City, they have a lot of experienced players like Dhanapal Ganesh, Denson Devadas, Karanjit Singh, Dharmaraj Ravanan and of course local players like Edwin, Prasanth. Also, the foreign strikers (are good). It's not easy to play in the first I-League campaign. It takes a lot of time and understanding to do well. They did not have a lot of time to prepare. But they are doing well now. For us, no game is easy," Singto assessed.
Further, the 42-year-old went on to state that his team was not safe from relegation even though they have 13 points in their kitty as DSK Shivajians, Chennai City and Minerva Punjab were exempt from relegation. "As three teams are safe, it is tougher for us. We have to qualify as high as possible. We need to get as many points as possible," he concluded.
Chennai City coach V Soundararajan tried to put behind the 2-0 loss his team suffered in Shillong earlier, though he was not in charge of the team then. "They are already a confident team. They defeated us in Shillong, though without our best players (Ravanan and Karanjit were injured). Now, they have drawn with East Bengal. They are a tough team," he said.
The Tamil Nadu-born coach went on to confirm that goalkeeper Karanjit Singh and versatile Afghan midfielder Haroon Amiri are fully fit and in contention to start.
"I want the team to rise to mid-table. Our players are more united and we have been practising well. Our system and positioning are different. So we are more confident," he said on a positive note before concluding his words.