Both managers will be looking for the all-important three points on Wednesday.
NorthEast United host Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League on Wednesday in a battle of two erratic teams, who have both struggled for consistency in results and performances so far this season. Its a crucial game from which both teams could do with the three points and ahead of it the respective managers met the press at the pre-match media conference.
On being asked if he had set any targets about qualifying for the playoffs Highlanders boss Joao Carlos Pires De Deus said, “Yes, we are done with five games, but nobody has won or lost the league yet. This is a different type of competition; even the team finishing first on points don’t win the league. Of course, we have to get more points and most importantly, more goals.”
“Football is science? No. You can’t move ahead with a pre-assumed target. Unlike previous seasons, we have two new teams. So, you can never be sure that this much points will take you to the knockouts. That is not a relevant idea”, he added.
De Deus replied in typical-Jose Mourinho style when he was asked if they would play TP Rehenesh in tomorrow’s game. “At the start of the season, we had drafted in three goalkeepers. TP, obviously, was our first choice, so he started in all the previous games. Now, the coach thinks Ravi Kumar is our best goalkeeper and we have always said that we don’t have the players in our squad just to fill numbers. We have good quality players and the coach uses them whenever he needs them. So, all our thoughts are going to be with Ravi Kumar for tomorrow.”
Speaking about the positives and negatives of his team so far the NEUFC boss said, “Our defence has been good so far. Infact, we are the second best side defensively. The boys at the back have understood the concepts well, but sometimes we suffer due to mistakes that has nothing to do with the backline, as in the last game.”
Mumbai City lost to an underperforming ATK side last weekend
“Yes, scoring goals has been a problem, but I believe we can change that any moment. Let’s not focus on that for a couple of more games. It is the job of the coach to speak on that. We have missed many odd scoring chances. We will have that even moments very soon when we can put the ball in the back of the net without distraction.”
De Deus did not rule out transfer activity in the January window. “We have ideas about that. But. I won’t say anything about that now. Hope you respect my decision. Because, in football, you are never sure about the transfer activity until it actually happens. Your target is sometimes hijacked by rival clubs. So, we won’t like to reveal anything.”
Mumbai City coach Alexandre Guimaraes expressed his views about the teams, the league as a whole and its development with time. “I think after five games, the forces are very equal. No matter what the scores are, be it 1-0 or 5-0, the teams are in a similar level now.”
“Its good for the local players to have more playing time. They can adapt and improve themselves. The organizers can improve a little on the fixture scheduling. The level of football is good, the games are exciting and its good for promotion of the game in India.
The Costa Rican tactician denied having any problems regarding the hectic scheduling of games. He said, “Yes, we have had 72 hours between the last game and tomorrow’s game. Its a problem when you have less time than that. We arrived two days prior to the match and had decent practice sessions. This type of fixture congestion is usual in football nowadays and you have to get used to it. But, we are happy to be here, nice pitch in Guwahati and hope we have a good game.”
Guimaraes also praised Assam lad Pranjal Bhumij who is a part of the visiting Mumbai City FC side. “Yes, great lad. Every day since pre-season, he’s shown that desire to be a professional footballer; to learn, improve and play. He is fearless and wants to dominate possession. So, I gave him some game time in our last game. He did very well in the last 10-15 minutes of a nervous encounter. He has a bright future and is surely knocking on the door of Indian football.”
The Mumbai boss also had his say about the quality of refereeing in the league so far. “Last season we had a mix of local and overseas referees in the first half of the league and then only local referees in the later half. This season, we have local referees from the beginning. This is a challenge for the league organizers also, because the locals referees have to grow as well.”
“Unfortunately for some teams, like us, we have been punished very badly with some decisions. But, like the local players getting more opportunities, it is the same for referees as well. But, we have to play under these circumstances. I know, they are trying to do their best, but our job is to play”, he added.