The Blues failed to get past Transport United in the AFC Cup in midweek but look onto cement their position in the league.

Bengaluru FC has been setting the pace on the points table in this season’s Hero Indian Super League. The team has gone from strength to strength as the season has progressed. Albert Roca’s men are currently in the second place with 21 points in the league standings, however, he is aware that the job is not yet done when you have five other teams breathing down the neck.

Their first of the challenge in maintaining top spot start against the resurgent NorthEast United FC at Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Friday.

Bengaluru had to work hard for a 1:0 victory against the Highlanders when the two sides met in Guwahati earlier in the season and Roca is anticipating nothing less from the visitors. “We had to grind out a win in Guwahati and that game was an indicator of how tough a side they can be. A lot has changed for them off the pitch too and I know they will give us a hard time,” the Spanish tactician in charge at Bengaluru said.  

“We approach every game with a certain degree of caution but not at the cost of compromising on our philosophy, and this game won’t be any different. NorthEast have been growing in confidence as the tournament has progressed and I haven’t been surprised at all,” he added.

NorthEast United pulled off an inspiring 3:1 victory over Chennaiyin FC in their last outing, and Bengaluru FC would not want to suffer a similar fate with other teams’ are hot on their heals. At the moment, there are only three points separating the top place FC Pune City, on 22 points and fourth place FC Goa with 19 points to their credit. 

Bengaluru FC doesn’t want to settle anything less than victory in their remaining campaign to assure playoff. “Looking at how tight the top half of the table is, I would say 21 more points from the remaining seven games,” Roca said.

Bengaluru FC are facing a gruelling fixture having returned to the city from Bhutan only yesterday late night, and are scheduled to play next five games off 14 days. “Calendar is very hectic on us but this is a situation we cannot control. We are at a stage where every game is vital if we are to seal a spot in the semis. Fortunately, I have a squad that is willing to step up when called upon.”

The trip to Bengaluru FC will be Avram Grant’s first away game as the head coach of North East United. The former Chelsea manager is quite hopeful that his side can repeat the feat against Bengaluru.

“I have seen them on television. They are a good team and I like the way they play. But as we have shown in our last match that we have the ability to win games,” Grant said.

North East United are current 9 points off the top four places with just 8 more games left in the season. Talking about his side’s chances of making it to the playoffs, Grant added, “Of course at the start of the season, the objective was a place in the top four. But now we just need to do the right thing. With so many points behind we just need to focus on the next game.”

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Head To Head

Bengaluru FC 1 – 0 NorthEast United FC

Key Players

Miku (Bengaluru FC)

The Venezuelan scored the only goal when the sides met earlier in the season. He has shown immense proficiency when it comes to scoring and his nine goals make him the second highest scorer in the league right now. The 32-year-old is quick with his runs and clinical with his finish, alongside being opportunistic and possessing good poacher instincts. On his day, he can give any odd defence a torrid time and will look to do so when his team hosts NorthEast.

Seiminlen Doungel (NorthEast United FC)

The 24-year-old has been a key operator on the flanks for the Highlanders. Of late, he has also shown impressive scoring touch, as he netted four times in his last three matches. NorthEast’s previous match against Chennaiyin FC saw Doungel becoming the club’s first ever hattrick scorer as well as the first Indian to score the same, this season. A pacey player who exhibits good touches with the ball, he will be hungry to be on the scoresheet against a formidable Bengaluru side.

Potential Lineups

Bengaluru FC

Albert Roca will probably go for a 4-1-4-1 formation, which relies heavily on their midfield and flanks for proper service to the striker.

Goalkeeper: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Defenders: Harmanjot Khabra, Rahul Bheke, Juanan, Nishu Kumar

Midfielders: Dimas Delgado, Edu Garcia, Erik Paartalu, Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh

Forward: Miku

NorthEast United FC

Avram Grant may counter with his own 4-2-3-1 formation, hoping to utilize their midfield and flanks to good effect.

Goalkeeper: TP Rehenesh

Defenders: Nirmal Chettri, Jose Goncalves, Sambinha, Reagan Singh

Midfielders: Martin Diaz, Rowllin Borges, Malemngamba Meitei, Marcinho, Holicharan Narzary

Forward: Danilo Lopes

Key Stats

  • Bengaluru have the highest number of wins so far this season (7), while NorthEast have the second-lowest (3)
  • The Highlanders have also scored the least number of goals till now (7)
  • The Blues are yet to draw a game this season

Last Encounter

NorthEast United FC 0 – 1 Bengaluru FC (8th December 2017 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati)

Form Guide

Bengaluru FC: W L W W L

NorthEast United FC: W L W L L