I-League: Chennai City geared up to meet Lajong

The home-side will hope to sustain that momentum when it hosts high-flying team from the North-East on Sunday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.

Chennai coach Soundararajan confirmed that Nandakumar (right) will start in place of Prasanth.

After a woeful start to the season, which resulted in the sacking of manager Robin Charles Raja, Chennai City FC has shown signs of renaissance under new coach V. Soundararajan with one win and a draw in its last two matches. The home-side will hope to sustain that momentum when it hosts high-flying Shillong Lajong on Sunday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.

“They (Lajong) are a confident team. They defeated us, though we were without our best players. Now, they have drawn with East Bengal. They are a tough team. But we will go all-out”, said a confident Soudararajan to the press.

Asier Dipanda’s brace was the difference when the teams met in Shillong early this season, but the away form of the Men in Red has not been impressive with two losses and one draw in the three games played outside Shillong’s JN stadium.

“All these years in the I-League we have struggled on the road. It is difficult to pinpoint whether it is due to weather or mental belief. I think it is good we are playing at 7pm and not 4pm. 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,” said Lajong coach Thangboi Singto.

Lajong, which finished sixth in the league last season, is fourth on the table with half of the season over. But the Reds’ manager said nothing can be taken for granted in a league where three out of ten teams are protected from relegation.

“If you look at Chennai City, they have a lot of experienced players like Dhanapal (Ganesh), Denson (Devdas), Karanjit (Singh), (Dharmaraj) Ravanan and of course local players like Edwin (Sydney Vanspaul) and Prasanth (Karuthadathkuni). 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. For us, no game is easy. We are playing in a new place. We’re here to give a good account of ourselves.

As three teams are safe, it is tougher for us. We have to qualify as high as possible,” said the coach.

All 19 Lajong players, who travelled to Chennai, are fit to play. Zodingliana Ralte (anterior cruciate Ligament injury) remains the only notable absentee. Karanjit Singh and Haroon Amiri are fit to start for Chennai, though midfielder Zakeer Mundampara is still on his path to complete recovery. Manager Soundararajan confirmed that winger Nandakumar will start in place of Prasanth in a 4-4-1-1 attack with Amiri and Charles De Souza expected to spearhead the attack.

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