After having somewhat passed the fanatical pressure test to draw goalless in the Kolkata derby against Mohun Bagan on Sunday, East Bengal now need to pass the statistical battle come Wednesday in Siliguri when they host Shillong Lajong in the last round of the first leg of I-League season 2016/17.
Perched pretty on the top of the table with 20 points, the Red and Golds enter the halfway mark of the league still unbeaten with six wins and two draws. They also boast of the joint best defensive record having conceded just three along with Mohun Bagan.
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However, if statistics and recent history had to have it, East Bengal have been vulnerable right after playing the I-League derby. In the last six instances, they have only won once that too against minnows Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
To add to the pressure of reversing notions, the opponent they face at the Kanchenjunga Stadium will be no less of an anathema. After Biswajit Bhattacharya resigned post a 3-1 away defeat to Bengaluru FC at the fag end of last season, Trevor Morgan was ushered in once again after his three years at the club in the early part of this decade.
Trevor Morgan's first game in charge in his second innings at East Bengal was at Shillong away and a one-nil loss followed a Federation Cup humiliation. They were ousted in the first round itself, once again by Lajong as they lost 2-1 away and drew 2-2 at home - two losses and a draw for the Kolkata side in their last three meetings.
The Briton would be eager to reverse the record and will be boosted by the availability of their new Aussie signing Christopher Payne. The striker will feature in the second half as Morgan will decide to go with the same lineup from two days ago.
READ: Trevor Morgan here to help East Bengal, not Indian national team
On the flip side, Thangboi Singto's side after a poor start with a trio of away losses got their campaign back on track with four wins on the spin at home but were beaten 1-2 by DSK Shivajians at their stomping ground in the last round.
They are on the road again and Lajong would not like to be termed as poor travellers as they pose a serious challenge sitting fourth on the table with 12 points.
Former DSK man Aser Dipanda has racked up seven goals in eight games to lead the goalscoring charts and will look to continue his form. Having named the same lineup for five consecutive matches, Singto is sure to bring in a couple of changes but has remained mum on his choices.
Kick-off is at 4:30 p.m. IST (GMT +5:30) at the Kanchenjunga Stadium.
EAST BENGAL F.C.
Injured: Cavin Lobo, Bikash Jairu, Anwar Ali
Key Player: Wedson Anselme
SHILLONG LAJONG F.C.
Key Player: Aser Pierrick Dipanda