A new side vs a revamped side. Footballing histories collide at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. Who’ll make the better moves?
The Highlanders blew away a good start to the league last season, missing the playoffs by a whisker. They would not want to commit the same mistake again. Backed by a passionate group of supporters in the “Highlander Brigade”, the John Abraham owned side will try to start positively right from Game I.
On the contrary, debutants Jamshedpur FC will look to get their first points, in fact all three if possible, for their supporters back home. Under the watchful eyes of former Manchester United player Steven Coppell, this team will look to spoil NEUFC’s party at home.
NEUFC have had a witty transfer season to start with. Having retained TP Rehenesh (GK) and midfield maestro Rowlin Borges, they traded in Nirmal Chettri, Holicharan Narzary, Lalrindika Ralte and Robert Lalthlamuana beside others. Among the foreign signings, Brazilian attacker Marcinho, Danilo Lopez Cezario and Luis Alfonso Paez will try to get the Highlander fans on their feet and hope to make them sing songs of glory. It is interesting to see that the Highlanders have no marquee player this season. Recently, NEUFC coach Joao De Deus heaped praise on Rowllin Borges calling him the best national player at the moment.
Jamshedpur FC have an all-new squad to begin their ISL journey. With immense depth and maturity in the mix, the team is raring to go. Indian spiderman Subrata Paul, who dons the gloves, will face his previous employers, and so will Robin Gurung and Sumeet Passi. South African recruit Sameehg Doutie will look to partner Bikash Jairu in the wings. This new side have plenty of attacking options up front.
HEAD TO HEAD
This will be the first encounter between the two sides in ISL history.
MEN TO WATCH
NorthEast United FC: Odair Fortes – The 30-year-old Cape Verde international is a lightning quick winger. Fortes reunites with coach De Deus at NEUFC and under him, had broken into the National team squad. He spent almost the entirety of his career at Stade Reims, with whom he has the rich experience of playing in the Ligue 1. His on-field heroics has earned him the nickname “TGV” – a synonym to high-speed Maglev trains in France.
Jamshedpur FC: Sameehg Doutie – The TATA Steel City-based side wasted no time in acquiring the services of this South African winger who has been a proven talent far and wide. This 28-year-old winger is blessed with plenty of raw pace, quality control and incisive vision. Having had the experience of playing in ISL before, he would definitely like to make his mark sooner than later.
PRE MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE:
Ahead of the big match in Guwahati, Highlander skipper Robert Lalthlamuana and coach Joao De Deus addressed the media.
“It is time for our young Indian boys to perform, this is the stage where we need to show our quality on the field. We share a good camaraderie between the northeast boys as well as other players in the squad. We had a good preseason in Turkey, thanks to the owners, team management and support staff.” the captain said. Being a left back himself, Robert was confident of containing opposition winger Sameehg Doutie whom he knows since last season at ATK.
Answering to questions about Rowllin’s probable unavailability, De Deus refused to rule out the probability of the Goan midfielder’s inclusion in the starting XI. “First lets see if he is on the field or not. Ofcourse, we are not going to play with ten men. We have replacements lined up for him. If he is fit he will definitely start, if not we will see.” On being asked about NEUFC’s underwhelming performances in the past season, the gaffer declined to dwell on the past and focus more on the present and future. “We will try to improve step by step as the season goes”.
Jamshedpur FC coach Steve Coppell was wary of tomorrow’s opponent. “First game, it is the most difficult match of the season based on my experience from last season [as KBFC coach], we know a few of the guys and their strengths, but collectively as a team we do not have much knowledge about them. Like any other team they too have many new faces in the squad. Similarly they are also preparing for us in the dark.”
The match will be broadcast live on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 HD. The match will also be available for live streaming on Hotstar. You can also follow the live commentary on Khel Now.