The eagerness of NorthEast United FC will come against the gritty Bengaluru FC as the play-off stage of the Indian Super League gets underway in search of a new champion, here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Thursday. The first match of the double-leg fixture will be keeping the visitor ahead on form as the host looks to invoke the excitement of its maiden play-off qualification to cause an upset.
Bengaluru has three wins and a draw in four meetings between the two sides. Their match in Guwahati earlier this season ended in a 1-1 draw. The home side’s head coach Eelco Schattorie acknowledged the fact that his side will be facing “the best club in India” but refused to be cowed down by the statistical factor.
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“We played them twice (this season) and we played really well on both occasions. In the first meeting at home, they drew (against) us with a last minute goal and while visiting them we should have won for having created more chances,” Schattorie said assessing the strengths of his side.
“In the last 10-12 matches it was like fixing a big puzzle each time while selecting the team. It is going to be the same for me tomorrow but my team is surely going give a good fight and play for the badge on their shirts,” said Schattorie, looking at a long list of injuries and the suspension of his defender Gurwinder Singh.
However, the host will be compensated by the return of Colombian defensive midfielder Jose Leudo. Schattorie hoped that the combination of Nigerian Bartholomew Ogbeche and Uruguayan Federico Gallego in the attack will come good once more.
Bengaluru, which finished on top of the league standings for the second successive season, will be the side to beat which has the best attacking trio of Sunil Chhetri, Udanata Singh and Miku in its line-up. “NorthEast has its weapons (and) so do we. People say that we had some problems against them but they got one point and we got four. It will be a good game with lot of passion, which is great for football,” Carles Cuadrat, the Bengaluru head coach, put in his case.
The Blues will be missing defender Gursimrat Singh Gill from suspension while its midfield workhorse Erik Paartalu is out of the tournament with injury. Cuadrat, now, will have to find out a good replacement in the middle of the park, which may well be the new Spanish midfielder Alex Barrera signed recently.