The visitors will look to consolidate their position at the top of the table with those around them dropping points.
Leaders of the 12th Hero I-League, Chennai City FC, take on bottom-placed and relegation-threatened home side Shillong Lajong on Monday, February 18, 2019, at the JLN Stadium in Shillong in what can now be called the no slip-up stage for both the sides, albeit for different reasons.
The all important game is scheduled for a 5 pm IST kick-off in the Meghalaya capital.
The difference in campaigns could not be starker as for the teams facing off on Monday in Shillong, with the visitors aiming for a first-ever title triumph whereas Shillong, after being in the top-tier league for a long time, face the ignominy of relegation.
The gulf in class reflects aptly well in the key numbers going into the game. Both have played 16 games so far and while Chennai are top with 34 points, Shillong have lost a dozen games to garner just 10 points so far. Chennai have also scored the highest number of goals (36) in the league, while Shillong has conceded the most, a whopping 44 goals thus far in the campaign.
In fact, in the first leg fixture between the two sides, Chennai inflicted a 6-1 tennis scoreline against Shillong and it remains to be seen how much that day plays on Allison Kharsyntiew’s young side on Monday.
After going down 0-5 in their previous game against Quess East Bengal, the coach gave the feeling that it was going to be a huge mountain to climb for them on Monday, saying in the pre-match conference, “We were not able to create any chances and defending as a team was not up to the mark. For us every game is different. Hopefully, we will play well tomorrow as it’s our home match.
“Chennai City are a good team and their attack is good. The main thing is we should not concede any goal. We are working on our defending for tomorrow’s match and hoping to get some points. It’s a difficult game for us tomorrow,” he said.
For Chennai, they would just need to guard against complacency, if at all they ever do. Their Spanish attacking force comprising of Pedro Manzi, Nestor Jesus and Sandro are lethal and have scored 28 goals in between them so far. Manzi has scored a phenomenal four hattricks in the league.
Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas sounded quietly optimistic on match day eve saying, “We have come early and are training. We are looking at it one game at a time. It was a good learning experience in the second half against Neroca.
“The foreign players are always willing to help the local players, which is a good thing for the team. There is definitely pressure of winning, but we are looking forward one game at a time and then go for the title. Every game is different and we will play to win tomorrow,” he continued. “Shillong Lajong is doing a great job for Indian Football. We are looking forward for tomorrow’s match.”
Whatever happens on Monday at the JLN, you can be sure that at this stage of the league, football fans from all over the country, especially the supporters of the chasing pack of clubs like Quess East Bengal, Real Kashmir FC, Neroca FC and Churchill Brothers will be watching anxiously.
Shillong Lajong FC
Rakesh Pradhan and Samuel Lalmuanpuia are not fit for the hosts. The Reds do not have any other absentees going into the game.
Chennai City FC
Roberto Eslava will be doubtful for the game against the Reds. Apart from the defender, the southerners do not have any injury problems at the moment.
Shillong Lajong FC– Lachenpa (GK), Gurung, Dohling, Rabha, Kharshong, Khongsit, Lalrohlua, Kynshi, Buam, Mahesh, Pale
Chennai City FC– Santana (GK), Vanspaul, Bora, Regin, Ajithkumar, Pandiyan, Kaplan, Ranjeet, Nestor, Sandro, Manzi
The match will kick off at 5:00 PM on Monday at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong. It will be streamed by Hotstar and Jio TV.