Shillong: With several teams at the bottom half struggling to get out of relegation zone, Shillong Lajong FC, who are currently at number eight position in the points table, face a do-or-die match when they host Pune FC here on Sunday.
Their hopes of securing tickets to the top-tier next season were dealt a big blow when a resilient Sporting Club De Goa won last Wednesday. "At the moment it is difficult, the situation we are in, but we have to come back strong and that is what we have been trying to do these few days," Lajong Manager Thangboi Singto said.
Commenting on the defeat in the last outing at home, Singto said, "A point would have been good for us but again the difference was (that) Odafa took his chances." Pune FC, on the other hand, found their feet again when they beat East Bengal to end their losing streak.
The Pune side, which began the season as title contenders, recently slipped out of contention. Pune FC coach Gift Raikhan, who took charge of the visitors for the remaining two games in the league, said, "We were expecting that we would be champion contenders but the situation now has changed. We struggled for a few matches before winning against East Bengal and we are more confident. Tomorrow's match will be very interesting and we are ready to stand strongly."
The Reds are going into the match without Brazilian striker Uilliams Souza Silva as he remains suspended for the game having picked up four yellow cards. Cub captain Aibor Khongjee, who is already training with the first team, though, is still doubtful for the game.
Singto admitted to having a lot of defensive injuries as Jibon Singh, Pritam Kumar (shoulder injury) and Samuel Shadap (Hamstring) will all be missing tomorrow's match against Pune FC.
Pune FC have not lost to Shillong Lajong in the five matches they have played and do not have any injury worries. Thangboi Singto said, "The team that played in Pune against Pune FC have a different set up now, the players we have in certain positions and we will be more competitive compared to the last match." Minchol Son, who is leading the side in the absence of Aibor Khongjee, has made it clear that his team does not want to be in the relegation zone anymore.
The Reds are in 8th position with 20 points from 18 games and the Pune side are in 5th position with 26 points from 18 games and a win for Lajong would ensure safety for the home side.