Shillong Lajong FC will host Aizawl FC in what promises to go down in history as one of the most significant Hero I-League encounters witnessed at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Shillong. The historic clash, as it is being dubbed by many here, will see Aizawl lift the coveted trophy if the side from Mizoram can even clutch on to a point from the Northeast derby.
For hosts Lajong, the match is a means to further assert and justify their “youth development agenda”. Lajong are already guaranteed to finish 5th in the tally, their best ever in the history of the I-League.
So with stakes high on both sides, more so for Aizawl, who are only playing their second I-League, tomorrow’s encounter promises to be nothing short of an epic battle between two young sides from the same region.
Ahead of the action on Sunday, Lajong coach Thangboi Singto calmed the nerves stating that though getting three points was all-important for SLFC, the game of football should be the ultimate winner at the end of the day.
For Singto, who aimed for a number 4 finish at the beginning of the season, things have been “positively challenging”. At a time when the season was drawing to a close, the Lajong gaffer lauded the club management for showing faith on the younger lot and with all the talks surrounding the much-hyped encounter on Sunday Singto urged his boys to “hold on to their maturity levels”.
“Tomorrow will be a very tough game. It’s important for the players to stay calm,” the Lajong coach said with a reassuring smile.
His Aizawl counterpart Khalid Jamil, meanwhile, accepted that there will be pressure on his side going into tomorrow’s “make or break encounter” but the boys have to give their 100 per cent under any circumstances.
Preparation wise there is nothing much that Aizawl is going to do differently, said Jamil adding that Lajong were no pushovers at home and have displayed tremendous grit all along the season.
Jamil, however, added that Aizawl would definitely want to live the title which would be a perfect gift to the thousands of Mizo fans who have stood by the team through thick and thin.
Replying to a question, Jamil said as a coach he cannot allow the stress of the epic encounter to get into him. “The coach has to be under control,” the former Mumbai FC gaffer said.
From the beginning of the season, we have taken it one match at a time and tomorrow’s gonna be no different,” Jamil said.
Meanwhile, even Lajong coach Thangboi Singto was all praise for the Aizawl fans. The news of around 2000 Aizawl fans travelling to Shillong for the NE derby has added extra spice to the tie and on Sunday all roads are certain to lead to the JN Stadium Shillong.
While Aizawl will miss out on the services of Ashutosh Mehta and Alfred Jaryan, both of whom are suspended after receiving four yellow cards, Lajong have an all fit squad for Sunday.
The tie is scheduled at 19.00 IST and it’ll be telecast on Ten 1.