I-League 2018-19: Shillong Lajong FC season preview, Squad, Probable XI, Prediction
Shillong Lajong FC comes into the I-League 2018-19 season with a clear intention - promotion of Indian football talent.
The Reds of the Northeast will field an all-Indian squad for all their I-League matches and it will definitely be a factor when they take on big teams in the I-League like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
However, that's not a worry for coach Alison Kharsyntiew as well as captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia, who says the development of Indian talent is more important than winning titles.
"Indian Arrows are a developmental side who are fielding only Indians. Shillong Lajong is also a developmental side like them. We've only 6-7 seniors in the squad who played in the I-League last year. The others are Lajong players from the U-18 squad who have come into the senior squad. We want to give them a chance to shine. We want to mould them and help them gain experience," Samuela said.
Shillong Lajong finished sixth in the I-League last season with 22 points from 18 matches. They had six wins, four draws and eight losses in I-League 2017-18.
"What the rest can do, we can also.
The coach and owner believe in us. We're thankful that they are giving us this opportunity," he added.
Shillong Lajong FC squad
Samuel Lalmuanpuia, who was handed the captaincy of the side at the age of 19, will captain the side again this year.
Phurba Tempa Lachenpa, Neithovilie Chalieu
Kynsailang Khongsit, Allen Camper Lyngdoh Nongbri, Novin Gurung, Aibankupar Dohling, Habymmutshuh Nongrum, Kenstar Kharshong, Rakesh Pradhan, Naoroibam Romen Singh
Hardy Cliff Nongbri, Lalrohlua, Phrangki Buam, Freestar Kharbangar, Lalawmpuia Hnamte, Samuel James Lyngdoh Kynshi
Bonison Nongmaithem, Samuela Lalmuanpuia, Sheen Sohktung, Parvaj Bhuiya, Naorem Mahesh Singh
Shillong Lajong FC Coach
Bobby Nongbet left Shillong midway last year, which prompted Alison Kharsyntiew to take over at the helm.
This season, Shillong Lajong have reposed their faith in the Indian, who guided them to a sixth-place finish even with the limited resources at his disposal.
The coach likes to play from the back and uses his wingers to generate pace from the flanks. The wingers then try to cut in from the touchline and square it to the striker or push forward on their own. Defensively, he likes to maintain a low line and let the opponent come at them.
Under Kharsyntiew, Lajong finished on top of the table in the recent Shillong Premier League with 26 points and set up a final with Langsning FC.
Head Coach - Alison Kharsyntiew
Team Manager – Birendra Thapa
Team Physio – Lucky Kharmalki
Shillong Lajong FC Probable XI
Sikkimese goalkeeper Phurba Tempa Lachenpa will be handed the gloves for Lajong.
Rakesh Pradhan, who has been part of the Lajong line-up in 2017-18, will be one of the full-backs, along with Novin. Kenstar and Aiban will be at the centre of the back-line.
Hardy Cliff will man the midfield, providing space for Samuela to play as an attacking midfielder.
Sheen will serve as an out-and-out striker with Samuel Kynshi and Phrangki taking the role of wingers.
Rakesh, Kenstar, Aiban, Novin
Lalrohlua, Hardy, Lalmuanpuia
Kynshi, Sheen, Phrangki
Shillong Lajong will probably not challenge for the title. They will have to work hard to avoid a mid-table finish given they are going to play without any foreigner this season.
Among the 11 teams, Shillong Lajong could probably finish seventh or eighth.