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Reinvigorated NorthEast take on stuttering ATK in Guwahati

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 Both teams are in desperate need of a win.

NorthEast United FC host defending champions ATK in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday. The Highlanders under the tutelage of Avram Grant surprised all by showcasing a spirited performance that saw them get the better of free-scoring FC Goa, via a 2 – 1 scoreline last time around. The win happened to be their first success at home this season and the goals were also their first at home. They will be hoping to carry that winning momentum forward when they come across ATK in another home fixture. The two-time champions, on the other hand, succumbed to a 1 – 0 setback against league debutants Bengaluru FC in what happened to be their third defeat already this season. They have to find consistency if they want to qualify for fourth successive semi-finals, and will look to do so during their trip to Guwahati.

ATK have won just twice in eight games and can cut the gap to the playoff spots to just two points with a victory. 

HEAD TO HEAD

NorthEast United FC 2 – 3 ATK (1 draw)

KEY PLAYERS

Seiminlen Doungel (NorthEast United FC)

The 24-year-old has been one of the regular starters for the Highlanders this season. He has played his part on the right flank, making good runs and always completing a good number of passes, while also never being shy of taking on the opposition keeper. Doungel scored the winner against the Gaurs with a delightful chip over the keeper in NorthEast’s last match and he will be looking to continue in a similar vein of form when ATK come calling.

Conor Thomas (ATK)

The Englishman has played his part to the tee in his debut Hero ISL season, having taken on the role of midfield anchorman for ATK at the start of the campaign. Slick and incisive with his passes, Thomas also breaks down several attacking moves from the opposition. The 24-year-old has a knack for reading the game well and is not shy about getting forward to be involved in attacks either.


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POTENTIAL STARTING LINEUPS

NorthEast United FC

The Highlanders may use the 4-2-3-1 formation, hoping to optimize the midfield and the flanks.

Goalkeeper:  TP Rehenesh

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

Midfielders: Martin Diaz, Rowlin Borges, Seiminlen Doungel, Marcinho, Halicharan Narzary

Forward: Danilo Lopes

Highlanders’ assistant coach Eelco Schattorie on the team’s way forward: “I think we need to improve a lot. I’m a coach but I’m speaking from my own perspective. Normally, to implement attacking football, you have to do that in pre-season. It is more difficult to reach that level at this stage. At the moment, we have a decent organization and we hope to build a good team from there.”

ATK

Teddy Sheringham is also likely to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation, which offers his team multiple options in attack.

Goalkeeper: Debjit Majumder

Defenders: Ashutosh Mehta, Anwar Ali, Tom Thorpe, Prabir Das

Midfielders: Zequinha, Ryan Taylor, Conor Thomas, Hitesh Sharma, Jayesh Rane

Forward: Njazi Kuqi

The visitor’s assistant coach Bastab Roy on the nature of the clash: “Planning is variable. The situation is such that it’s a must-win game for us as well as NorthEast. We’re struggling in the league table, so it’s anybody’s game at the moment.”

KEY STATS

  • ATK are currently seventh in the points table which is their lowest position in any Hero ISL campaign after eight games

  • Only Delhi Dynamos FC have lost more games (7) than NorthEast (5) this season

Grant - “Pressure is the name of the game.  If you are at the top, there is pressure to stay there. If you are at the bottom, pressure is to come up. All my life in different places, different countries, the pressure is always there in football. It’s good because it pushes you to do more and more. We had four points before this game, so there was pressure. We took three points and there is more pressure. It’s good, I like it."

Published: Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:47 PM IST

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