The Highlanders’ boss also spoke about the team’s preparations for the season.

The Indian Super League is back after a coon’s age, this time, with the fans, and without the tiring bio-bubble. It will revert back to its usual home-away format with the first match being played at Kochi between Kerala Blasters and East Bengal. The action will then shift to the fortress of the defending Durand Cup Champions as the blues will host a new look NorthEast United, coached by Marco Balbul. Sunil Chhteri-led BFC are high on confidence and will want to continue their momentum going forward.

Ahead of the clash, NorthEast United FC head coach Marco Balbul and defender Marco Jakobsen addressed the media.

Marco Balbul’s first words

The Israeli head coach first greeted the journalists and disclosed his excitement ahead of his first season in India. He said, “First of all, after a long period it’s good to see you all here and not on zoom. It’s really exciting to start this season of the ISL.”

Thoughts on tomorrow’s opponents

NorthEast United’s new boss was all praise of the former ISL champions. He said that he is well aware of how strong and balanced Bengaluru FC are. He further spoke about his side’s preparations during the pre-season.

“We know that it’s a tough game with a very strong team. They have a good balance of defence and attack. But, we have also made good preparations. We beat two teams with good foreigners which helped us a lot in preparing for this game. 

The players are highly motivated and prepared for this game and we have to be at our best to win this game,” said Balbul.

Approach towards Bengaluru FC

Marco Balbul said that Blues were the deserving champions of the 2022 Durand Cup as they put on a great show of attacking football. But he was very clear about how his side will approach the game tomorrow and said that they are here with the intention to win.

‘Look, they deserved to win the Durand Cup. They were the best and displayed good attacking football. And we have a good challenge tomorrow to face a good team, but as I said we come with the intention to win every game irrespective of the opponent. 

“We come to play our style, our game to do the best for our fans and make them happy as they will come back to the stadium after a long time,” asserted the 55-year-old.

Squad

NorthEast United have a very young squad with just six players above the age of 30. When asked about the thought process behind assembling such a young squad, Balbul threw some light on how the club plans to go about things in the seasons to come. He said that they’re building a team for the future and not for the short term.

“We want to build a team for the future and we want to implement a process. We signed 14 new players for the team. It was tough for them to adapt to the conditions.

Our vision is to build a good structure and philosophy of football. These young players are the future of the club and it is very important for us to play good football for our fans. We have a good squad to face any game in the league and win,” he quipped.

Michael Jakobsen’s comments

Adjusting to India

The Danish defender is one of NorthEast United’s key players this season. Having played the majority of his football in Europe and Australia, this is his first time in South Asia. When quizzed about how he has adjusted to life in India, the defender said that initially, it was tough for him to get used to the climatic conditions due to the humid weather of Guwahati.

“It was quite hard, to be honest. The first two weeks were very tough as the humidity in Guwahati is relentless and warm as well. You need to adapt to it and yesterday was much better,” said the former Danish International.

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