I-League: Lajong aims for win against rejuvenated Chennai

After suffering a shocking 0-3 defeat in its last Hero I-League match against Indian Arrows, Shillong Lajong FC will be hoping to salvage some pride when it takes on Chennai City FC here on Friday.

Shillong Lajong coach Bobby Nongbet made it clear that the team is looking for nothing less than a win against its opponent.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Fresh from its ‘historic’ win against Mohun Bagan, Chennai City FC (CCFC) faces another stringent test of its newfound strength when it takes on the North-Eastern giant Shillong Lajong FC (SLFC) at the latter’s home in a I-League fixture here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday.

With the League approaching the half way stage, both the sides appeared keen to pick up points to better their status in the standings. The two opponents are currently placed in the bottom half of the standings, with SLFC placed sixth with 10 points while CCFC is eighth with seven points.

Chennai City coach V. Soundararajan took heart from the fact that his boys are showing the assertiveness at the right juncture. The visitor has won both its matches away from home. It first downed Churchill Brothers and then outclassed Mohun Bagan in the latter’s citadels to pick up two wins in its last three outings.

This in a way alters the position of the visitor, which had been thoroughly outclassed (0-2) by the host in the last meeting happening here on January 31, 2017, in the previous edition of the League.
 
“I am really happy with the performance of my team that beat Mohun Bagan in the last match. We will try to maintain the momentum and go all out against Shillong Lajong,” said Soundararajan ahead of the match.

The CCFC gaffer said that the odds are stacked against his side as his players are getting just two day’s break after playing “one of the toughest matches” in the previous round. Compounding the matter are the chilly weather and the synthetic surface, which Soundarajan said would enhance the “challenge” for his team.

Soudararajan said he will be looking get a good midfielder to cover the absence of Pradeep Mohanraj, who was given marching order in the last match. The main strength of the visitor is its French striker Jean Michael Joachim, who has been in fine form netting five goals so far in the team’s seven outings. “We are looking to strengthen our attack and that has helped us in getting two wins,” the CCFC coach added.
 
Shillong Lajong coach Bobby Nongbet said the team would look to regain the rhythm after suffering loses against Neroca FC (0-1 at home) and Indian Arrows (0-3 in Delhi). “We need to pick up points here and regain the rhythm. The task will be difficult especially against Chennai City which has been doing very well in the last few games,” Nongbet said.  
 
The host will be depending on the services of its young skipper, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, who has shown good form. Another local find, Redeem Tlang, has also found the net twice. The host will be hoping that its foreign imports in the attack - Aiman Al Hagri (Yemen) and Abdolaye Koffi  (Ivory Coast) - also regain their touch.

“We understand that the game is not going to be easy but we know that we have to work very hard to gain those three points. We are determined and the team would be different altogether and much stronger in 2018,” Nongbet said. The coach said that his team will be missing central defender Juho Oh (South Korea) owing to injury and will be replaced by young defender Kenstar Kharshong.