Super Cup: Injury-hit NorthEast United takes on Chennaiyin FC

NEUFC head coach Eelco Schattorie revealed that his side will be heading into the Super Cup quarterfinal against Chennaiyin FC with only 14 outfield players and two goalkeepers for selection.

NorthEast United FC head coach Eelco Schattorie will have to do with only 14 outfield players available for selection against Chennaiyin FC in the Super Cup.   -  AIFF Media

An injury-ravaged NorthEast United (NEUFC) is set to take on Chennaiyin FC in an all-Indian Super League affair in the quarterfinal of the Hero Super Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday.

NEUFC head coach Eelco Schattorie revealed that his side will be heading into the game with only 14 outfield players and two goalkeepers for selection. While striker Bartholomew Ogbeche (hamstring), is fit to play a brief role against Chennaiyin, attacking midfielder Federico Gallego remains sidelined with a leg fracture. The duo contributed to 16 of the 22 goals NorthEast scored in the league stages of the ISL. 

Schattorie explained, “The preparation hasn’t been smooth. Among the 15, one player is suspended (Gurwinder Singh) and the other (Ogbeche) can play only 15-20 minutes. In total, I have only 13 [outfield] players but it is not an excuse. We will go all out [for the win].

Rupert Nongrum and Provat Lakra, both long-term injuries, Robert Lalthlamuana (compassionate leave) and Pawan Kumar (knee) are the other notable absentees. Schattorie hopes that the young Indian players in the squad will step up in the crunch situation. 

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NEUFC will be keen to welcome central midfielder Rowllin Borges back into the fold after he missed the ISL playoff second leg against Bengaluru FC due to a hamstring injury. In Rowllin and Ogbeche’s absence, the Dutch coach had shifted to a 4-4-2 formation in Bengaluru to suit the attributes of his second-choice striker Juan Mascia.

With Rowllin’s driving runs from the middle of the park to create width, Schattorie might return to his preferred 4-3-3 formation. He pointed out that, “He (Mascia) is a striker who likes the ball to be played to him and not make the deep runs. That ends up having a lot of influence on the game plan. But Borges can make the runs.”

Chennaiyin, on the other hand, will need to find a way past NorthEast’s sturdy defence, which has kept the most number of clean sheets in the ISL. Unfortunately for coach John Gregory, his team has scored the least number of goals while finishing 10th on the points table.

“Goal-scoring has been trouble all season. We have lacked a real goal-scorer. Jeje (Lalpekhlua) has scored two in his last two appearances so hopefully, he and CK (Vineeth) can strike up a good relationship and get us a few victories,” said Gregory.

Back in Bhubaneswar after its AFC Cup assignment in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, the former ISL champion will need to hit the strides quickly against a side it has lost twice to this season.

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“We haven’t had a great deal of time (for preparation) since the AFC Cup match. We just had one day for recovery and then we were travelling. But the boys are ready and I have a fit squad which is a benefit,” said the Englishman.

In spite of the numerical advantage in the players to choose from, Gregory labelled NorthEast the favourite for Sunday’s clash. “He has got a good bunch of players there. Even if they got 15, it still represents a difficult match for us. They will obviously be the favourites,” he stated.