SEVEN MATCHES, ONE WIN. Five humiliating losses, including the one to newly-promoted inexperienced side Aizawl FC. The way DSK Shivajians have started their maiden I-League campaign has drawn a stark parallel to Pune's infamous seasonal flower in football - Bharat FC.
At a time like this, when they are sitting at the very bottom of the league table with 4 points from 7 matches, they will go up against a side that has, after a shaky start, managed to turn things around and navigate some tricky waters.
Shillong Lajong have been on the road all this month. They lost to East Bengal but managed to get draws out of Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan. They are one one of just 3 clubs that are unbeaten at home, and that may give them a lot of steam in the second half of the league. For now, they have turned up in Pune with 9 points from 7 matches, eyeing a result against a browbeaten Shivajians that can propel them to the fourth place.
But going into this contest, what will worry Lajong coach Thangboi Singhto is that in terms of attacking success, they are the worst in the league. After 7 gruelling games they have managed to score only 3 goals; the two Brazilians Uilliams and Fabio got one each, and Konsham Singh got a lucky one against Bagan. The Shivajians aren't much better off in this department; they've got only 4 so far, with Cameroonian striker Aser Dipanda grabbing 2 of them. But Shivajians have a much worse defensive record; they've let in a dozen goals, just one less than Salgaocar. Lajong, to their credid, have conceded only 8.
Although, on paper, neither team looks like they should have this much trouble getting goals. Both teams have some good midfielders. Shivajians have Douhou Pierre, Israil Gurung. Lajong have the likes of Penn Orji and Boithang Haokip. But it appears an inherent lack of flow has been hampering both these teams' performance; an issue they have failed to solve almost halfway into the league. And the situation has been worsened by a certain lack of ambition shown by both sides. The Shivajians are immune from relegation so they seem to be treating this campaign as a test-drive. And the Lajong coach was over the moon after his team came out with a lucky draw against league leaders Mohun Bagan.
The sruggle, for both teams, is similar. Their midfielders have to outdo themselves and serve their strikers better. The conversion rate has to go up if they are to notch up a few wins. And that's where the fight will be, in this particular game. 3 points will be a massive boost for both these teams. But that'll require them to play much better than they have been playing so far. Otherwise we may end up seeing a conservative, uninteresting goalless contest that will send a disheartening message to both sets of fans.