ISL 2018: NorthEast United eyes first home win, Kerala Blasters keen to bounce back

NorthEast United FC will look to claim its first win at home while Kerala Blasters FC will be hoping to regain momentum after successive losses when the two sides clash in the Indian Super League on Thursday.

NorthEast United FC players train on the eve of their Indian Super League clash against Kerala Blasters.   -  ISL MEDIA

The Indira Gandhi Stadium here offers the right setting for two subjugated outfits looking to regain form in their meeting on Friday. For home side NorthEast United FC, the challenge is to record its Indian Super League campaign's first win at home while the visiting Kerala Blasters FC will be hoping to regain momentum after suffering back-to-back losses at home in Kochi.

NEUFC head coach Eelco Schattorie appeared keen to get his team back to the rhythm after suffering its first loss, which came against Mumbai City FC at the same venue. The Highlanders were unbeaten in the first five rounds before the loss against Mumbai outfit.

The previous two outings here have ended in a stalemate. Schattorie said his side will be strengthened by the return of defender Croatian Mislav Komorski from suspension but the Dutch gaffer looked worried about missing another foreigner, which in all likelihood will be Ghanaian winger Augustine Okrah, to a season-ending injury.

“We have one foreigner injured who might not play for the entire season, but I will not name him now as it can be an advantage for the opponents. Barth (Bartholomew Ogbeche) had an injury but he is back. We have some Indian players injured but this is part of football,” Schattorie said giving an update on the current state of the team.

Schattorie, who has virtually rebuilt the side after taking charge this season, said the biggest challenge is to ensure his team performs at its optimum through the season.

“Ours is a small budget team which does not mean we do not have quality but the overall depth (of quality) in the squad is not that much, leaving us with not many options when it comes to injuries and replacements,” he noted.

The Highlanders will be hoping that its prolific striker Ogbeche performs to his repute and gets the goals. The Nigerian’s fine form in the striking zone has helped NEUFC win three away matches and reach its current tally of 11 points. “We have some injuries in the team but hope the international break has allowed the players to recover. We were in a decently good momentum before the break and our task will be to maintain that,” he said before the match.

Kerala Blasters, which has not won a match since beating ATK in the opening match, will be looking to find the right blend of offense that has been lacking in its game so far.

Head coach David James has been rotating the side quite frequently to find the right balance in the side. “Our performances have been decent enough except for one match which is the Goa game where we didn’t perform well enough. Goa are a very good side. You have to accept on some occasions that some teams are better than you. In the other six games, including the Bengaluru game, we had decent performances. We always want to win games, want to qualify and win the ISL. We aim for three points,” James said.

The Englishman will be hoping that the former NEUFC wingers in his team such as Seminlen Doungel and Halicharan Narzary have a good day in office and aid his attackers Matej Poplatnik and Slavisa Stojanovic in finding the back of the net.

The visitor will also be hoping that Anas Edathodika gets back to his old self to hold up the backline alongside Sandesh Jhingan and keep the home attacks at bay. The visiting Blasters side is currently placed seventh with seven points from as many outings.