That festive time of year is upon us once again, a time of joy and celebration. Indian Super League fans, and in fact all football fans, will be rejoicing over the prospect of what could be one of the games of the season. On Wednesday, NorthEast United is set to host high-flying Bengaluru FC at the Nehru Stadium, in Guwahati. This fixture promises to be an enthralling one, between two of the Hero Indian Super League’s top sides.
Bengaluru FC have been the best team in the league so far. They’ve remained unbeaten in eight matches, wining seven of them, including six on the trot. But they will still be on their guard as they are challenged by the next best side in the league, NorthEast United FC.
NorthEast United coach Eelco Schattorie will be doubly motivated to end Bengaluru’s unbeaten run. The home side have not exactly been in red-hot form this season, particularly at home. They have registered a single win in their four matches on home soil but Schattorie will hope they can get a positive result as they attempt to break the 20-point mark at the start of the second leg.
It will not be easy for the team, particularly with matches coming in thick and fast.
“I think Bengaluru have an advantage here (because of the fixtures). But they don’t have their best player (Miku) available, so I think that’s a disadvantage. But they have shown that they can win games even without him. They have conceded just six goals so far so breaking them open will be difficult,” said Schattorie, who will bank upon star striker joint leader for the Golden Boot, Bartholomew Ogbeche, to deliver the goods.
In midfield, Jose Leudo and Rowllin Borges will have to shoulder additional responsibility as they come up against a solid midfield pivot consisting of Dimas Delgado and Erik Paartalu.
Freedom of pressure
Bengaluru have maintained a 100 percent record on the road, winning each of their four away games. Despite the continued absence of Miku, who has been a vital cog in their team, the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh and others have stepped up to the challenge.
Bengaluru coach Carles Cuadrat will be pleased with the collective effort of his squad in front of goal. Players such as Rahul Bheke and Nishu Kumar have contributed with a goal or two as Bengaluru continue their march into the play-offs.
“NorthEast United FC have done really well this season. From all their games that I’ve watched this season, I can see that there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes. They’ve been working hard and you can also see that they have done well with their scouting. They’ve brought in some good players and you can see that the club is growing,” said Cuadrat.
Bengaluru have looked susceptible to pressure outside their Fortress as they have conceded at least a goal in their last three away games. Schattorie would have done his homework and now it’s over to his boys to do the needful.
The stubborn NorthEast defence against the free-flowing, reckless abandon attacking of the Blues. Again, something has to give.
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