Bagan keen to maintain winning run
Kolkata: Relegation-wary Mohun Bagan would look to extend their winning run when they face Shillong Lajong FC in round 22 of I-League fixture at the Kalyani Stadium on Thursday.
The match may not have any significant bearing on the title race but the two opponents showed a lot of keenness ahead of their upcoming meeting and utilised the full practice session on a day when the country celebrated Holi.
Mohun Bagan will bank on the freshly gained confidence they ought to have gained from the win against Pailan Arrows in the previous match.
Mohun Bagan will be without their ace striker Odafa Okolie, who is down with fever.
"Doctors have suggested a period of rest for his full recovery and we will make an assessment of his condition on the day of the match," Bencherifa said.
"Tolgay (Ozbey) is scoring goals and that is a positive thing for the side," Bencherifa said about his Australian striker, who found form with two goals in their 3-2 win over Pailan Arrows in the last round.
Mohun Bagan will also be missing the services of their key midfielder Denson Devadas, who will be serving a match`s suspension with four bookings.
Midfielder Manish Bharghav is also uncertain with injury while defender Nirmal Chhetri rejoins the side after sitting out the last match due to suspension.
Speaking about the lessons learnt from the last match, Bencherifa said the Mohun Bagan defence need to be more organised, considering that they conceded two goals after leading 3-0 at one time.
"I have seen Lajong`s performance against Pune FC in the previous round and had a good discussion with our boys in defence," he said.
Bencherifa did not reserve any comments for Lajong`s new acquisition on loan from Blackburn Rovers - the Portuguese player of Brazilian origin Edinho Junior - who impressed with his showing in the 2-2 draw against Pune.
Mohun Bagan have nine points from 16 matches and had a mixed fortune in the last five rounds, where the team won twice and drew as many while losing once.
"Edinho is a very good striker. He is real quick inside the box and knows his job well," Lajong FC coach Thangboi Singto said.
Lajong are pinning on the young striker`s ability.
"Our opponents have the home advantage and we respect that but we will go for full points and hope the team will be able to put together a good performance," Singto said.
"We do not have any major injury worries or suspension problems, and hope that the boys do much better than the good performance against Pune in the last match," Singto said. Lajong FC have 20 points from 21 matches.