Leaders East Bengal will look to return to winning ways after their derby stalemate when they face visiting Shillong Lajong FC in the I-League football clash at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri on Wednesday.
Having won six matches in a row, the red-and-gold brigade were held to a goalless draw against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in their previous round fixture as their star strikers failed to score a goal.
The Shillong outfit, on the other hand, will play away after five back-to-back home matches since January 21 that saw them win four on the trot — Minerva Punjab, Mumbai FC, Chennai City FC and Churchill Brothers SC — before suffering a 1-2 defeat against Pune’s DSK Shivajians in the last round.
East Bengal have 20 points with six wins and two draws as they have scored 17 goals with Wedson Anselme and Willis Plaza netting five each as they along with Ivan Bukenya make a potent force up front remaining unbeaten from eight matches.
Trevor Morgan’s side will hope to extend their winning run and avenge their Federation cup defeat when the two teams met the last time.
A young Shillong side emerged victorious and progressed to the final four with 4-3 on aggregate in the Federation Cup.
In the I-League last season, however, East Bengal won their home game with a 4-0 win but lost their away tie in Shillong by 0-1.
Kanchenjunga is an unfamiliar ground for Thangboi Singto’s young squad and will be playing for the first time at the venue which has now proved to be a very lucky home ground for East Bengal this season.
However, Shillong Lajong are more focused on getting back to winning ways and are aiming for full points and promise to fight on till the end.
The highlight for Lajong so far has been the superb form of the Cameroonian striker Aser Dipanda Dicka who is now the leading goal scorer in the I-League with seven goals from eight matches.
He scored all of these goals at home and Singto will hope he continues netting goals for the team in the next two away games.
Despite going down to DSK last weekend, Singto was satisfied with the way the team kept their fighting spirit alive till the final whistle of the match. Singto also said that the boys showed real zeal and they were fighting so hard for the win.
The gaffer expects the team to keep the fighting spirit going full on with positive attitude especially in these two crucial away matches. Shillong Lajong are on fourth position with 12 points from eight matches.
“We are working on areas where we need to improve on defensively and in attack. We need to approach every match with unity and team work. The aim should be to do well in the remaining matches,” Shingto said.
The gaffer also commented on East Bengal and said: “East Bengal are a strong and balanced team. We need to work more on what we need to do against them and how best we can get good results. We need to keep playing as per our strengths and all players need to contribute to the team.”