Punjab FC assistant coach Sankarlal Chakraborty is expecting a tough challenge as they prepare to host Mohun Bagan Super Giant in a must-win clash in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.

The ISL debutants currently occupy the 10th spot on the league table with 21 points off their 20 matches, three points below sixth placed Chennaiyin FC. In their penultimate game of the league season, the Shers must prevent a defeat to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Mohun Bagan SG, on the other hand, have already sealed a playoff berth and are in contention for the League Shield having registered 39 points in their 19 matches, occupying the second spot on the league table.

Acknowledging the challenge that the Mariners pose to Punjab FC’s playoff hopes, the assistant coach is optimistic his team can execute their game plan correctly and take home all three points. 

We know we are going to play tomorrow's match (on Saturday) against one of the great clubs and presently the strongest team. So accordingly we made a plan to perform well tomorrow. We are focused only on our game plan if we are able to execute it properly. So hope we earn maximum points from the game,” stated Chakraborty in the pre-match press conference. 

Punjab FC have two games left in the league stage, against Mohun Bagan SG on Saturday, and against East Bengal FC on Wednesday. Both matches are set to be played behind closed doors.  

On taking on teams from his homeland, the Kolkata-born Chakraborty shared, “In this professional arena, even as a Bengali guy, there is no emotion. Now I am Punjab FC’s Indian assistant coach, and I have to give my best for this club.”

For the Shers, their encounter against Mohun Bagan SG is a must-win game as a loss would eliminate their playoff hopes in their inaugural ISL season. Even with a draw, although still in the race mathematically, their chances for making it through will be slimmer than ever.  Chakraborty was upbeat about his team’s chances of continuing the season beyond the league stage. 

“Tomorrow's a very serious game. If we are able to execute what we have planned for every phase of the game, and if our guys accept this challenge, we hope we will earn maximum three points and still be in the top six race,” he said.

Punjab FC took on the Mariners in their opening fixture of the ISL 2023-24 season, succumbing to a 3-1 loss. But the 48-year-old believes both the teams have come a long way since then. Both sides will fight for their respective objectives, Mohun Bagan SG for the League Shield, and Punjab FC for the final playoff berth. 

The assistant coach stated, “We have come a long way from that match. We changed our style of play, they have also done the same. And they have also changed their head coach. So lots of differences there. But in tomorrow's match, one thing is similar. They are fighting for the Shield, for the number one position. We are fighting for the top six.”

We hope to get the three points: Melroy Assisi

Defender Melroy Assisi accompanied Chakraborty to the press conference. The 25-year-old has made eight appearances so far this season, keeping one clean sheet. He also scored his first ISL goal, finding the back of the net in the game against NorthEast United FC.  

Punjab FC come into the game after a 3-1 defeat to Odisha FC, but Assisi feels that the team has moved on from the loss, and is focused on their fixture on Saturday. 

The last match was a setback for us. But we have moved on from that and we are all focused for tomorrow's game. We'll play as per our plan and hopefully, we'll be able to get the three points. There's always an element of pressure in football or any sports. But we don't want to have any additional pressure on us. We know how crucial the remaining games are and we'll play accordingly to get the best possible results,” he signed off.