NEUFC v KB: Injuries and absentees mar build-up to ISL opener

In the opening fixture of ISL 2016, injuries and absentess have dominated much of the pre-match buildup for both, host NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) and Kerala Blasters.

Kerala Blasters marquee player Aaron Hughes during a training session.   -  AFP

The opponents – NorthEast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC - in the opening fixture of the third season of ISL counted on their own strengths in absence of information about others. NorthEast United FC’s Portuguese coach Nelo Vingada said the best option in the situation will be to attack when in possession of the ball and he promised a good game saying that he has a balanced side and hoped to pick up full quota of points.

“We hardly know anything about the opponent as they have a new coach and have changed the greater part of the team. That is the problem in a short-format tournament like this and the only advantage I have in the first match is playing in front of a home crowd,” Vingada said. “I will be using the international players at the core of the plan and have the skilful Indians on the outside. Our wingers are good and am confident of playing good football,” he added.

Vingada said the Brazilian attacker Fabio Neves is injured and has been released. Japanese forward Robert Cullen will be replacing him. The Uruguayan striker Sasha Aneff is also nursing an injury and would not be available after a few matches while the defender Salam Ranjan Singh is yet to be released by Bengaluru FC, which is playing the AFC Cup semifinals.

Kerala Blasters will be missing Bengaluru FC duo C.K. Vineeth and Rino Anto while striker Antonio German is nursing a niggling injury. Blasters’ English coach Steve Coppell did not sound worried about the injury or absentees saying that his squad big enough to accommodate that.

Coppell hoped that the pre-season training in Thailand would help in having a good coordination in the side, which is essential in ensuring a good start. “Best players do not always make the best team. It is about how they gel together as a team. We are dealing with different culture and languages and it is essential to establish a good coordination to have a good match,” Coppell said.

Aaron Hughes, the Blasters’ marquee player, agreed with his coach and said that that he was impressed with the quality and skills of his Indian colleagues.