NorthEast eyeing turnaround against league leaders Chennaiyin
The stakes have never been higher for NorthEast United FC when they take on Chennaiyin FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. Having suffered a heart-breaking defeat at the hands of Delhi Dynamos FC, another loss would surely end Ricki Herbert’s hope of qualifying for the top four while a win would provide them with a window of opportunity. Unbeaten in their last seven games, and a demolition job of Mumbai City FC in their kitty, the mighty Chennaiyin will look to continue with their march at the top of the table. It will interesting to see how the NorthEast Head Coach shall set his side out to play, given that these are desperate times for the Highlanders. Chennaiyin have proved that the loss of Elano and Mendoza to injuries, has not hampered their attacking strength. As far as interesting encounters go, this game will have a lot of neutrals and NorthEast United fans on the edge of their seats. Interestingly enough, the last time these two teams met, they played out a block-buster 2-2 draw.
Form guide (most recent matches first)
NorthEast United FC: L D D L L
Chennaiyin FC: D D D W W
NorthEast United’s captain will have to draw on all his leadership and defensive skills to keep the attacking threat of Chennaiyin at bay. The Southerners have put 20 goals past their opponents so far which highlights the difficult task that awaits Miguel Garcia and company. Testing the former Mallorca man will be one of India’s shining stars in the Hero Indian Super League, Balwant Singh who has been in scintillating form thus far. His eye for an assist and tireless running is sure to cause a few problems for NorthEast United FC’s defence.
Koke (NorthEast United FC) v Eric Djemba-Djemba (Chennaiyin FC)
The “Spanish Bull” will be highly disappointed having squandered two gilt edged chances in his last outing that could have seen his side take something from their clash against Delhi. But there is no denying that he is their most creative player, who will be needed to churn out a stellar performance. Keeping a close eye on Koke will be Eric Djemba-Djemba, who will try and suppress the former-Malaga man in his bid to squash the threat that might emanate from midfield. The former Odense BK player has integrated into the squad seamlessly, and will be keen to boss the midfield so that the attackers can venture forward freely.
Kondwani Mtonga (NorthEast United FC) v Bruno Pelissari (Delhi Dynamos FC)
The Zambian scored a consolation goal for the Highlanders against Delhi and was easily one of their best players on the pitch. An excellent distributor of the ball with an eye for goal, Mtonga will be looking to push forward and combat the threat of the excellent Pelissari who has not put a foot wrong in his last two games, scored against FC Pune City and Mumbai City FC. An exciting encounter in the middle of the park might stem from this clash.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
NorthEast United FC
Isaac Chansa – One of NorthEast United FC’s bright sparks in their previous game, the former AFCON winner may be entrusted with the responsibility of springing attacks from midfield. Aggressive and forward thinking in his game-play, the Zambian needs to have his best game in the tournament if NorthEast United FC are to topple the table-toppers.
Bernard Mendy – The hard-working Frenchman has been one of the pillars of the Chennaiyin FC squad both in defence and while going forward. Having scored one of the goals of the tournament, Mendy will be looking to lend his usual flair and strength to his team, as they seek to establish a firm grip on their top-spot.