The Reds were previously thumped by the Goans in the reverse fixture in the league earlier this season.
The stage could not have been set better. Two-time champions Churchill Brothers, need a win against bottom-placed Shillong Lajong on Tuesday, February 5, to climb atop the 12th Hero I-League standings and lay down the gauntlet for long-time leaders Chennai City FC.
The game is the second of the day and kicks-off at 5 pm IST in Shillong’s JLN Nehru Stadium.
The Goan side hammered Shillong 4-2 in the first leg fixture at the Tilak Maidan in an entertaining fixture, which, in a way, epitomised how both sides have played this season. Churchill are relentless in attack and are backed by quality finisher in Willis Plaza. Shillong, on the other hand, never give up on the attacking option, but have been unable to put away their chances this season.
League top scorer Willis Plaza of Trinidad & Tobago netted three of his 16 goals this campaign in the first leg against Shillong and will remain the primary threat to Alison Kharsyntiew’s talented side. Gambian winger Dawda Cessay’s sterling form is also an added threat to the home side.
Churchill coach Petre Gigiu, speaking to the press on matchday eve, emphasised on the fact that relegation-threatened Lajong will be up for a fight. “Tomorrow I think it will be a very difficult game for both of us as Shillong will be playing for not getting relegated and we will be playing for the Championship and the best team has to win,” he said.
“Surprised to see Shillong in this position as they are a very good team. They play very good football. This team may go up. If we win tomorrow we hope for the Championship or the second position, but if we lose tomorrow, we are not under pressure. The pressure is on Shillong to win.”
Lajong go into the game with some confidence though, having won away against defending champions Minerva. Naorem Mahesh Singh, another talented winger, found his scoring touch after a two-goal blitz in the early stages of the league.
Alison was forthright with his views in the pre-game presser, stating, “From the beginning, I have been positive for the young players. I try to help them improve in every match and also for their future. Everyone is working hard. We are going step by step. We are learning from our past matches. Churchill is a good team with a good coach,” he said.
“Tomorrow we can stop them if we can do well in defense and hit them on the counter. For us, we have to score goals not conceded goals,” said Alison.
They will also take heart from their eye-catching attacking display against the same opponents away to try and upset Churchill hopes.
Churchill will know that the top spot is not secured till its won against an ever-dangerous and slightly unpredictable Shillong. It promises to be a cracker in the hills.
Rakesh Pradhan will be the only absentee for the hosts.
The Red Machines will be missing out on the services of Wayne Vaz and Khalid Aucho. The rest of the team is fit and are raring to go into the game.
Shillong Lajong– Lachenpa (GK), Dohling, Rabha, Kharshong, Khongsit, Kynshi, Gurung, Buam, Pale, Samuel, Lalrohlua
Churchill Brothers– Kithan, Rowilson, Eldor, Mohanraj, Lyngdoh, Gurung, Novakovic, Plaza, Wolfe, Ceesay
The match will kick-off at 5 PM at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong. It will be telecasted on digital platforms of Jio TV and Hotstar.