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East Bengal will take on Lajong FC tomorrow at Barasat.

The i-League table is critically balanced with the men in Red & Gold in hot pursuit of the men in blue from Bangalore and their city neighbors. East Bengal will take on Lajong FC tomorrow at Barasat, in almost a must-win game. To remain in contention, East Bengal must make good use of their extended home stretch that will continue almost until end of February. The last two home games produced mixed results, and the fancied home squad will start this game as favorites; even though their displays were far from impressive and room for improvement was clearly evident.

This will mark consecutive games against a team from the hills, both of which are remarkable for their speed and fitness. Lajong proposes to be a sterner test than Aizawl - they possess more experience and resources. They will also take heart from the result of the inconsequential last encounter, wherein they pumped five past the makeshift East Bengal squad. In contrast, for the Red & Gold, this will be grudge match and they will need to up their ante if they are to avenge their humiliation from the summer of 2015.

Well known faces of Brazilian Uilliams and Nigerian Penn Orji will feature in the opposite ranks along with Boithang Haokip, Aiborlang Khongjee and Kunzang Bhutia. So, far Lajong had played four games; winning two, and losing and drawing one each. Their campaign started off slowly with a goalless draw at home against Mumbai FC and a 3-0 drubbing in Bangalore. But since then their campaign is back on tracks with consecutive home wins against the Goan outfits - Salgaocar and Sporting (both 1-0, and scored by Fabio and Uilliams). With 7 points from 4 games, Lajong sits firmly in mid table. Both their goals came in second half [48th and 59th minute]; and they had produced three clean sheets in 4 games - which represents that goals will not be easy to come by. Their only blemish was in the away game at Bangalore where they conceded in the first minute and were put into back foot from the beginning.

In contrast, East Bengal will be going into the game with 11 points from 6 games [3 wins, 2 draws and a loss]. Defensively, East Bengal had been quite steady and produced three clean sheets. Finding the back of opposition net had been the issue; and the team had scored only 7 goals in 6 games. It has been hard work so far, as the team scored six of these seven goals after the hour mark. Only one goal was scored in the first half [against DSK Shivajians]. The team must improve on conversion ratio, and chances must not go begging like it did in the Aizawl game - this game is not expected to produce many chances.

Overall, a very close encounter is predicted, and it may become a battle of attrition unless there is a spark of genius in the middle. Lajong will be the more cautious side and we predict that East Bengal will dominate early on. It remains to be seen if they can convert the domination into lead - for chances are high, that the team scoring first will not return empty handed.

 

 

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