Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal begin their Airtel I-League campaign on Wednesday when they play Lajong FC, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Shillong, on Wednesday.
East Bengal haven’t beaten Lajong in Shillong so far. So, it will be a nice feeling for the players and the fans if they buck the trend.
In Shillong, without five key players as coach Marcos Falopa decided to rest them keeping in mind the crucial return leg of the AFC Cup semi-final on October 22, East Bengal do have a task ahead.
Lajong are on a high after their win against Dempo SC and draw with Pune FC. And with the capacity crowd rooting for them, it will not at all be easy for the red-and-gold brigade.
The I-League is one title, which has eluded East Bengal. The side, under Trevor James Morgan, twice came tantalisingly close, but failed to cross the finishing line.
This time around under Falopa, the Calcutta giants will be hoping they are not pipped to the post once again.
Falopa is expected to field Subodh Kumar in Mehtab Hussain’s place, while young Abhishek Das is likely to play as the right-back. Robert Lalthlamuana will be the left-back, with Gurwinder Singh partnering Uga Okpara at the centre of the park.
James Moga and Edeh Chidi will be the two frontliners, trying to torment the Lajong FC defence.
Falopa, though, is very impressed with the promising Seiminlen Doungel’s work ethic. “He is in very good shape and may get a start tomorrow,” the Brazilian said.
If Seiminlen does play, his role will be that of a withdrawn striker, with Cavin Lobo, Harmanjyot Singh Khabra and Lalrindika Ralte being the three midfielders.
Ralte, who scored a gem of a goal against Kuwait SC in Kuwait City, will look to replicate his effort in Shillong too. “He is in great form. I just hope he gets one on Wednesday too,” Alvito D’Cunha said.
Lajong coach Thangboi Singto, on the other hand, said his team’s morale is high despite the 0-1 reversal to Sporting Clube de Goa.
“On Saturday, we created chances, but lacked the accuracy in front of the goal. So, I feel it’s just a matter of converting those chances and opportunities, which I hope, our boys will do on this occasion.
“East Bengal are a good squad, but we are no pushovers,” Singto said.
Lajong’s Japanese midfielder Taisuke Matsugae is a doubtful starter, but a final call will be taken on Wednesday morning. “We will wait till tomorrow morning,” Singto added.
East Bengal and Lajong have played six times with Lajong winning thrice, East Bengal twice and one match ending in a draw.