The Highlanders are yet to earn a point against The Blues as they lost both the fixtures last season.
It’ll be a clash at the top as current leaders Bengaluru FC visit second-placed NorthEast United in what promises to be an exciting encounter on 5th December at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. NorthEast so far have only faced one defeat against Mumbai City FC whereas Bengaluru FC has been unbeaten so far, having conceded only six times.
Ahead of their much-anticipated encounter, both NorthEast and Bengaluru coaches met the media to share their opinion about the match and other things.
Eelco Schattorie (NorthEast United)
NorthEast United has taken everyone by surprise and are currently sitting at second position, having lost only once in their nine games so far. Though, they haven’t been performing well in their home turf, they were able to pull a late win against Kerala Blasters after two draws and a loss in Guwahati.
The Highlanders will be looking upto their captain Bartholomew Ogbeche, who has put on a stellar performance so far having scored 8 of their 14 goals. He is also the joint highest goalscorer in the club’s history.
The Dutch gaffer was seemingly worried about the upcoming tough tough games as he addressed tomorrow’s game and said, “I think it’s going to be a similar game as we had in Jamshedpur because they both are similarly organised and want to play with the ball. My biggest worry, from a position of winning not from a position of losing, is the schedule; the fatigue that can kick in. We also now have three games in a row; Bengaluru, two days later ATK and then right away Goa.”
He also said, “So, I’m thinking ahead and this is going to be a very important period where we have less rests and I have to say it that both the teams that we are going to face do not have a schedule like us from the beginning of the season till now. So, I think Bengaluru hence have an advantage and hopefully we remain fit enough as we only had today to get into training before facing them.”
“Also, Bengaluru are missing their top guy and even then they have managed to pull out wins in their last couple of matches which means that it will be an exciting, tough match and as they have only conceded 6 goals, so to break them open is going to be very tough,” he further added.
While talking about the threat that Bengaluru possesses with Sunil and Udanta on the wings, Eelco said, “Last game, I put in Lakra on purpose to keep Reagan fresh for this game and also as Lakra is very good in defending he eliminated the left winger of Jamshedpur. It was a bit of a risk but at the same time, I had the confidence in him. Tomorrow, it will probably be the same. He would be needed to eliminate the threat of Bengaluru’s top scorer, Sunil Chhetri and on the left side their winger is good, he can dribble well so, there will be the same plan as well.”
“In all cases, when you are facing a team with good wingers, you need to be tough with them and not give them too much space to put in crosses but when you have wingers who know how to change directions, it is going to be a tough game. So, we need to work together as a team, to close spaces. So, hopefully, we can eliminate their threat tomorrow.”
The gaffer yet again spoke about the tight scheduling of the league and was very critical as he pointed out that his opposition tomorrow seem to have a better schedule coming into the game.
He said, “You have to believe me, this is not something to be negative about or to find excuses. Because, in the end, you don’t have to be a professor or to be smart to notice if somebody has a schedule where they have 4,5 or more days of rest than us. Or you have a team, like Delhi who are worse than us as they had seven games in a row where they had three to four days rest and it was like a tight schedule and you can now see that Delhi are struggling.”
The 46-year-old also noted, “But we are second right now. After Delhi we have the worst schedule. When the schedule had arrived, I had said that we will be going through a tough period and hope we can get out of the next three games without any injuries having the players properly rested. But after this game I only have two days rest before facing ATK and after Bengaluru, ATK has exactly the same schedule as Bengaluru. The scheduling has an impact in the results, which I am 100% sure about.”
Carles Cuadrat (Bengaluru FC)
Bengaluru FC started the season from where they left of in the league stage of last season and have been on an eight-match unbeaten streak. They have only drawn against Jamshedpur in their second game and are on a six-match winning run. They are currently without their star man Miku and even then scoring and winning doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Blues.
Coach Carles spoke about his run with the team after taking over from Albert Roca and said, “I think we are keeping on with the same philosophy that we had during Albert’s days. Maybe, with the players, I can feel that they have really been working harder. I think until Miku got himself injured, we had been working really good in pressing the opposition defenders and Sunil and Udanta have been working hard in the wings in the defensive aspects. So, I feel that the players we have, are very committed in their defensive aspects and it’s nice for the coach to see that.”
He then went on to praise NorthEast United FC for their rise and current from in the league, “NorthEast are playing very nice games. For all of us in the competition, we are happy to see that they making a step forward and they are growing as a club. All of the games that I’ve watched till now, they have been showing that there have been a lot of work behind and they have created a very competitive team. Also, I think they have been working very well in scouting bringing really talented players. So, I think overall it’s a club which has developed a lot from last season.”
In their last game against FC Pune City, Rahul Bheke redeemed himself after scoring the winner having put one in his own net in the first half. Cuadrat spoke very highly of Bheke and said, “Rahul is having a fantastic season, we are very happy with him. He was our first pick in the draft last season because we had trust in him. But, we didn’t know until we started to work with the player whether he will understand the concepts that we want to work with. We could see from the beginning that he has been an excellent player. Day after day, he is improving to give a better performance every game. He is getting better in the physical aspect but also in the reading of the game. So, I’m happy with the way he is helping the team to get the results”
He then talked about the miss the team is suffering with the injury of Miku and the adjustment the team has seen to cope up with it. “It’s a shame for all of us to miss Miku with an injury or with any player as NorthEast are also dealing with a long injury with a player. We have to try different things.”
“In the team we have different players who can play that No. 9 position in Sunil and Chencho and Semboi too, who has come off the bench in the second half in the last three games. So, we are trying with the players to adjust. But to replace real talents like Miku is really difficult. We can try with same footballing aspects, but without him, we are never getting that without him,” he said.
Going into the tough three games in a short period of time, NorthEast have a fully fit squad with the only miss being forward Kivi Zhimomi. But, Eelco did point out that there are some niggles with a few players and he could only make the final call after the last training session.
The visitors on the other hand have good news as Albert Serran has almost recovered and joined training and may feature off the bench tomorrow.
Pawan (GK), Provat, Komorski, Grgic, Robert, Rowllin, Leudo, Putea, Gallego, Redeem, Ogbeche.
Gurpreet (GK), Nishu, Juanan, Bheke, Khabra, Paartalu, Dimas, Xisco, Chhetri, Udanta, Chencho.
Did You Know?
- NorthEast United are yet to earn a point against Bengaluru FC as they lost both the fixtures last season.
- NorthEast United so far have scored 14 goals, which is their second best in the history of ISL only 4 shy of their previous best of 18 in ISL 2015.
- Bartholomew Ogbeche is currently NorthEast’s joint highest scorer (8) in the ISL history having played only 9 matches whereas it took Nico Velez 25 appearances to score 8.
The match will take place on Friday at 7:30 PM at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. On television, the match will be live on Star Sports. Meanwhile, it will also be streamed on Hotstar and Jio TV.