Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Lajong take on United Sikkim in NE derby

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: Riding on a high after two impressive results at home, Shillong Lajong FC would take on United Sikkim in a crucial Round 10 encounter of the I-League in Gangtok on Saturday.

The Reds would look to continue their good run especially after they managed to hold Kolkata giants East Bengal to a goalless draw in their last home match and defeated Pailan Arrows 3-1 at home.

The win against Pailan was a much needed boost to SLFC after losing two consecutive away matches against Dempo and Mumbai FC.

SLFC have not lost to United Sikkim till date and the team from Shillong ot the better of Bhaichung Bhutia’s men in their last encounter in the North East Super Series beating them 3-0.

However SLFC coach Desmond Bulpin is aware of the challenge ahead.

“It’s going to be a fierce battle. Players would be entering the field tomorrow with a different intensity. Such North-Eastern derbies are always welcome considering that lot of footballers come from this region. It’s a great sign for the sports in the country”, Bulpin said.

At the moment, Shillong Lajong is in a slightly better position, in the 9th position whereas United Sikkim is in the 12th position in the I-League standings.

As compared to other five clubs which came to play here, Shillong Lajong negates the home advantage of United Sikkim as the Reds are used to similar kind of conditions at home and it has four first-choice players who have played in United Sikkim till last season. Captain Renedy Singh was with United Sikkim for the past two seasons when the Baichung Bhutia co-owned club featured in the second division. Striker Sushil Kumar Singh, defender Govin Singh and goalkeeper Basant Singh were also with United Sikkim in their second season.

Though Shillong Lajong is not wary of the home advantage of the Gangtok side, the away side would remain guarded on how the United Sikkim players would react to a personal tragedy that Bhaichung suffered on Thursday.

Bhaichung’s father Sonam Topden (73) passed away at his native village in Tinkitam, South Sikkim and the former India captain Bhaichung, also the interim coach, had to rush to Tinkitam.

“We express our deep condolences on the demise of Bhaichung’s father. It is unfortunate on the eve of the match. I don’t like saying this but sometimes such unfortunate incidents brings together the players and they could be a strong and united side tomorrow”, the SLFC coach said.

The same views were shared by United Sikkim players and management.

“Sometimes difficult situation brings out the best in you. Players are sad (on the demise of Bhaichung’s father) and they know about the difficult situation. They will give their best performance tomorrow to get the three full points”, said United Sikkim manager Arunava Bhattacharya.

United Sikkim players have been practicing without a declared coach for the past few days. The club is also grappling with injuries to some key players.

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