Khalid Jamil will be returning to the place where he won an improbable I-League with Aizawl FC last season when the north-east side takes on his current team East Bengal in an I-League encounter at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Tuesday.
The match will also mark the homecoming of Lalramchullova, Brandon Vanlalremdika, Laldanmawia and Syrian midfield maestro Mahmoud Al-Amna who were an integral part of Aizawl FC’s title-winning campaign last year along with coach Jamil.
The I-League title has always eluded the visitors and if they are to be on their hunt they will need nothing but three points when they lock horns against the current champions Aizawl FC on Tuesday.
The Red and Golds trail league leaders Minerva Punjab FC by four points after nine games. If Jamil and his boys want to stay close to the title they will have to play their hearts out in front of Aizawl’s Red Army who will sing till the final whistle stops the game.
“Aizawl is a really nice place, nice weather. I expect a warm reception from the fans,” he said.
On being asked if Aizawl are a weaker team after he left for greener pastures, Jamil replied, “No, they are a strong team. All the players are really good and in my opinion, they are a better team than last season. We must work really hard and give our absolute best for tomorrow’s match.”
East Bengal have scored 17 goals in nine matches and they are the best when it comes to scoring goals. Trinidadian forward Willis Plaza has scored only two goals but is confident that he will add more to the team goal tally.
Asked if East Bengal will have an advantage, Aizawal chief coach Paulo Menezes replied, “No, I don’t think they will have an advantage over us. The last time we played we didn’t have a proper pre-season and that results in our game but this time it will be different.
“We will be playing for the three points like last match and no defensive game plan will be utilised.”
The Portuguese coach is well known for his attacking instinct and this can be seen in the way Aizawl played their game.
Menezes stated, “We are the champions and we will go toe-to-toe with every clubs. We didn’t defend with 10 men against Mohun Bagan and it will be the same with East Bengal. Sometimes, we have to defend as a team but we are not a defensive club.”
East Bengal played their last league match seven days ago while the home team had only two days for recovery and recuperation.
Menezes further added, “It’s all in the mind. If we think we will tire we will be tired. I cannot complain about the fixtures but I can promise we can give our absolute best in every match.”