East Indian derby pits NorthEast against ATK in crunch tie
NorthEast United FC will play host to eastern rivals ATK at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday. The match will be of particular significance for ATK, as a win will see them break into the top four of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) table, giving a huge boost to their playoff ambitions.
For the Highlanders, the home match will be an opportunity to reclaim the second place in the standings and stay on the heels of league leaders Bengaluru FC as we enter the business end of Hero ISL 2018-19.
A win on Saturday will see the Highlanders secure their highest-ever points tally in Hero ISL history. NorthEast's best season so far was back in 2015 when they picked up 20 points from 14 matches. They already have 19 points from 10 outings this season.
Eelco Schattorie's men have been in fine form this campaign, winning five, drawing four and losing just once. Barring any major upsets, NorthEast are expected to make it to the playoffs. Surprisingly, most of their success this season have come in away matches. NorthEast have won one, drawn three and lost one of their five home fixtures this season, and the mediocre home form will be a concern for the Highlanders during Saturday's match.
NorthEast’s foreign recruits have been a revelation this season, particularly captain Bartholomew Ogbeche and Federico Gallego. Ogbeche is the joint top-scorer in the league, alongside FC Goa's Ferran Corominas, with eight goals, while Gallego has been the creative force behind most of NorthEast's attacking exploits. The Uruguayan already has three goals and five assists to his name this season, making him the best midfielder in the league in terms of goal contributions. The ATK defence will need to find a way to negotiate with the Ogbeche-Gallego threat if they expect to get anything from the match.
Here’s a look at NorthEast’s current season in numbers:
The two-time champions made a shaky start to the season, but have since recovered and are currently on a four-match unbeaten run. Andre Bikey's introduction to the back line has somewhat solved the defensive woes which plagued the team in the early phases of this season. However, injuries to strikers Kalu Uche and Emiliano Alfaro have diminished the Kolkata side’s attacking threat considerably this campaign. Even their wide attackers - Everton Santos and Balwant Singh - have struggled to find form this season.
In the absence of a proper targetman, ATK have relied heavily on playmaker Manuel Lanzarote to score and create the goals. The Spaniard hasn't been quite as prolific as his last season in Hero ISL, but is still the team's talisman while going forward. His set pieces and passing range will be a constant worry for the Highlanders' defence on Saturday.
Here’s a look at ATK’s current season in numbers:
NORTHEAST UNITED FC: Pawan Kumar (GK), Reagan Singh, Mato Grgic, Mislav Komorski, Robert Lalthlamuana, Rowllin Borges, Jose Leudo, Redeem Tlang, Federico Gallego, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Bartholomew Ogbeche (C)
ATK: Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), Ankit Mukherjee, John Johnson, Andre Bikey, Ricky Lallawmawma, Gerson Vieira, Hitesh Sharma, Jayesh Rane, Manuel Lanzarote (C), Everton Santos, Balwant Singh
DID YOU KNOW?
- ATK have scored just 3 goals in the second-half this season.
- If they win against ATK, NorthEast will record their highest-ever points tally in Hero ISL history.
- NorthEast have won just 1 home match against ATK in the Hero ISL.
Which creative maestro will have the biggest impact?
- Federico Gallego
- Manuel Lanzarote
Have your say in the comments section below.
Catch the match live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV from 7:30 PM.