The Yellow Army have nothing left to play for but pride.
NorthEast United only need to avoid defeat against Kerala Blasters in their next game to qualify for the Indian Super League playoffs this season. The Highlanders are currently in fourth position, with 30 points from 19 matches. Kerala Blasters, on the other hand, are currently in 10th position, with 17 points from 19 games and their playoffs hopes ended a few games ago.
The Highlanders have a chance to qualify for the ISL playoffs for the second time in their history. With Goa and Hyderabad facing each other in their last game of the season, all that they have to do is avoid defeat against Kerala Blasters to make it trough. Although a defeat does not necessarily mean that NorthEast United’s hopes of qualifying will come to an end, since an FC Goa victory in their match will also see them through. Moreover, NorthEast United’s eight-match unbeaten streak will act as a confidence-booster against the Blasters.
On the other hand, Kerala have nothing to play for but pride. They would like to end their season on a high with a win and also spoil NorthEast United’s party along the way. This could also be a nice opportunity for the Yellow Army to rotate their squad and look ahead to next season.
Right-back Ashutosh Mehta still remains a doubt after missing the last game. Other than that, with the return of Federico Gallego to the bench in the last match, coach Khalid Jamil will have a full squad to pick from.
For the Men in Yellow, Facundo Pereyra might return after being on the sidelines. However, defender Nishu Kumar remains injured.
NorthEast United: Subhasish (GK); Nim, Lambot, Mashoor, Gurjinder; Lalengmawia, Camara, Machado, Gallego, Suhair; Brown.
Kerala Blasters: Gomes (GK); Lalruatthara, Kone, Costa, Carneiro; Prasanth, Jeakson, Vicente, Rahul, Hooper; Murray
The two sides have faced each other 13 times, with the Highlanders winning thrice and Kerala coming on top five times. The other five matches have ended in a draw.
The reverse fixture earlier this season saw the Highlanders come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2, with Idrissa Sylla scoring a 90th minute equalizer.
Man to Watch
Luis Machado (NorthEast United)
With Gallego missing the last two matches for the Highlanders, it still remains a doubt if he will start the match against Kerala. Therefore, the creative responsibility will fall on the shoulders of winger Luis Machado. The Portuguese has delivered for the Highlanders when it mattered the most and is currently the top scorer of the club with seven goals. The 28-year-old also has an assist to his name.
He has found the back of the net thrice in the last three games and would like to continue his rich run of form to secure a place in the playoffs for NorthEast United in the next game itself.
Jordan Murray (Kerala Blasters)
Kerala would like to spoil NorthEast United’s hopes of qualifying for the playoffs and in order to do so, they will have to rely on Jordan Murray to do what he has been doing best this season, scoring goals. The Australian has found the back of the net seven times and is already the club’s top scorer so far.
Coming up against a NorthEast defence that has only kept one clean-sheet in their last 13 matches, the 25-year old can be sure that he will have his chances.
Did You Know?
- NorthEast United have accumulated 30 points already this season. This is the highest number of points won by the Highlanders in the league stage in their history.
- Khalid Jamil’s 8-match unbeaten streak is the longest by any Indian coach in the history of the league.
- NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters played their first-ever Indian Super League match against each other.
The match between NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters is set to be telecast live on Star Sports 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 2 SD & HD (English), Star Sports Hindi 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 3, Star Gold 2 (Hindi), Asianet Plus (Malayalam), and Star Sports regional channels (in Bangla, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi). It will also be streamed live on Disney+ Hotstar VIP and Jio TV.