Shillong Lajong’s Desmond Bulpin and Mumbai FC’s Khalid Jamil will square their wits when their boys clash in the Round VI encounter of the I-League Football championship at the Balewadi Sports Complex Stadium here on Saturday (November 17).
The two managers with different styles of coaching will hope to dish out a contest that is utterly important for both teams—Shillong Lajong is at No 6 position and with a chance to move up into top 5 slot, while Mumbai FC is languishing at No 12, but would like to carry on with their inspiring show following their win in the Round V clash against Sporting Clube de Goa.
Mumbai FC, which has 3 points from their lone win, had shared honours last season against Shillong Lajong, which has 7 points. The teams had scored identical 2-1 wins at their respective home matches in the 2011-12 season, but the current season hasn’t been that good for the home side so far.
With back-to-back matches at home, Mumbai is hoping that the momentum will be with them, especially with striker Gabriel Fernandes showing immense promise during last two matches.
Gabriel was sent in as substitute against Salgaocar SC, but impressed with his coverage of right flank and solo attacks that he conducted with gusto.
In contrast, Ghanaian Yusif Yakubu and Nigerian ND Opara have failed to fire even as coach Jamil has been reposing faith on their abilities time and again. Yakubu no doubt is a class player, but he has been unlucky upfront in the last two matches.
Mumbai striker Abhishek Yadav has had indifferent outings but Jamil has still insisted on starting with him. Instead Gabriel would be an ideal striker to start with.
In the midfield, S Kuttymani and Nicholas Rodrigues have shouldered the responsibility well, while in defence Evans Quao, Faizal Rehman and Haroon Fakruddin Amiri have done their bit, but that hasn’t translated into wins for Mumbai FC.
Instead, when Amiri attacked upfront, he came up with two goals and was a revelation against Sporting Clube de Goa, something that Jamil will be hoping for a repeat against Shillong Lajong on the morrow.
“My players are in a high mood after the first win in the last match. They want to continue with the momentum and score another win,” said Jamil after the team finished training this afternoon, the same time when then match will be played.
Shillong Lajong on the other hand has been more composed side, winning two of the four home matches. The Meghalaya side played its first away match last week against Dempo Sports Club, Goa, and despite losing 1-4, the North-Easterners earned praise for their display.
More importantly, Shillong Lajong’s wins have come against top-rated teams—Mohun Bagan and Prayag United SC—credit for which must got to Bulpin and his training methods.
Confidence apart, Bulpin is plagued with injuries to key six players. “We are suffering from playing in the Federation Cup where our six players were injured after forced to play in waterlogged pitch,” explained Bulpin.
One of the six injured has recovered and Bulpin intends to play him on Saturday, but the coach refused to name who it would be from the six recuperating players.
“I know we will be without key players, but still I am looking forward to win against Mumbai given that we did pretty well against Dempo,” Bulpin said of the last match which he said that Shillong could have done better.