East Bengal take on Shillong Lajong in the round 21 encounter of the Airtel I-League at the Salt Lake Stadium on Friday evening.
A win would see East Bengal overtake fifth-placed Lajong as they currently trail the North-East club by two points and have played three less games.
The red-and-gold brigade come into this fixture on the back of a morale-boosting 2-1 win against Mohammedan Sporting. That result ended a sequence of five games without a win in all competitions but more importantly has given them hope of mounting a title challenge.
But the Kolkata giants have lacked consistency all season with 22 points dropped already after 15 outings while they haven’t won back-to-back I-League fixtures for more than 12 months.
Armando Colaco’s side will also be without Nigerian central defender Uga Okpara, who came off with an injury in the Mohammedan clash and could even be ruled out for the rest of the campaign.
However East Bengal recorded their biggest win of the season when the sides met in Shillong back in October as a James Moga brace and one each from Edeh Chidi and Cavin Lobo saw them comfortably win 4-0.
That victory came during the tenure of Brazilian Marcos Falopa and now they would be aiming to do the double over Lajong under the guidance of Colaco.
“The performance was more pleasing about the Mohammedan game than the result. Now we must build on that win by securing three more points,” Colaco was quoted as saying.
Thangboi Singto’s Lajong side have been in the top five for the majority of the campaign but have failed to win after the break with two points from three games.
In their last game, Lajong drew 2-2 away at Pune FC and Singto would happily settle for another point on their travels.
Lajong have been quite strong going forward as only league leaders Bengaluru FC have scored more but they have only kept three clean sheets in 18 games and thus have a negative goal difference.
The I-League head-to-head record is quite even with three wins each and a draw in seven meetings and East Bengal have the chance to beat Lajong twice in the same season for the very first time.