Close contest as Lajong prepares to take on Goa`s Sporting FC

Shillong: A close contest is on the cards as Sporting Clube de Goa gets ready to take on Shillong Lajong FC in a 22nd round I-League encounter at the J N Stadium on Saturday.

Sporting, currently at eighth position with 31 points from 21 matches, is eyeing at an opportunity to exploit Lajong, whose defence is in shambles at the moment.

While Sporting had held Churchill in their last match and lost in only one match from the previous eight matches, Lajong drew a blank in a match with Chirag United in the latter`s home match and are currently at 10th position with 27 points from 21 matches.

Both teams however, will be missing on a number of key players.

Lajong will miss the services of six players including injured keeper Soram Poirei, Zenith, who pulled a hamstring during practice yesterday and Malima, who is returning to fitness, but ruled out of a few matches ahead.

Admitting that the defeat against Chirag United as a setback for the team and management, Lajong`s coach Pradyum Reddy said his team`s centre-back defence is a weakness.

"This position has not seen improvement since the team started in 2009-10 season," Reddy said, adding the whole team is moving in to fill the gap.

With an eye to finish the season in the top half of the I-League table, Lajong`s remaining matches are crucial and they target to shoot 40 points, Reddy said.

On the other hand, Sporting is likely to miss at least four players, two of whom are injured and the others under suspension for double bookings.

Sporting will rely on the strength of their foreign players with all of them -- James Moga, Ogba Kalu and Keita Boubacar -- in good form. The form of some of their younger players has also been encouraging.

Considering the defeat that Lajong faced with weaker teams like Chirag, Sporting technical director Alex Alvares said, "their morale is low and we hope to garner three full points."

He, however, said the climate in Shillong and the fans could be a problem as the team is yet to get used to playing in such a windy situation.