Key battles to watch out for in NorthEast United FC-ATK Mohun Bagan first-leg semi-final

NorthEast United FC will be hoping to put on a solid display when they face ATK Mohun Bagan in the first leg of Semi-final 2 at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Saturday. The Highlanders are currently on a 10-match unbeaten run in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 and will head into the clash with confidence having got the better of the Mariners last time around. ATK Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back after failing to clinch the League Winners Shield following a loss to Mumbai City FC in the last match of the league stage. Both sides will be keen to register a win heading into the second leg and here’s a closer look at some of the key battles on display on Saturday.

Federico Gallego vs David Williams

Federico Gallego has burst to life in the second half of the season and the Uruguayan playmaker will be eager to carry his form into the semis. Gallego has been pulling the strings from midfield for NorthEast United FC and will have fond memories of his side’s last clash against the Mariners in which he scored the winner. He has netted four goals as well as provided six assists this season and will pose a huge threat to ATK Mohun Bagan’s defence, which was more susceptible in their last two games than it had been earlier in the campaign. The Mariners, on the other hand, will hope that David Williams comes good for them like Gallego has for NorthEast United FC. Despite having a somewhat underwhelming campaign, the Australian has still scored thrice and made two assists. A big-match player, Williams will hope he sets things to rights to some extent come Saturday.

Marcelo Pereira vs Deshorn Brown

Deshorn Brown and Marcelo Pereira were winter transfer window acquisitions for NorthEast United FC and ATK Mohun Bagan respectively. Both players hit the ground running for their new clubs and will be looking to make a difference for their teams in the semis. Brown has found the back of the net five times for the Highlanders since his move from Bengaluru FC and has proven to be a dangerous in and around the opposition penalty area. Marcelo Pereira, meanwhile, has added an attacking edge since joining ATK Mohun Bagan in January. The Brazilian attacker has a wand of a left foot and has netted twice for the Mariners, including a stunning freekick. Capable of impacting the game from anywhere on the pitch, Pereira would hope to bother the Highlanders no end on Saturday. 

Roy Krishna vs Luis Machado

Luis Machado is NorthEast United FC’s top-scorer this season with seven goals so far. He’s also provided an assist and will have fond memories of scoring against ATK Mohun Bagan in NorthEast United FC’s last clash against their semi-final opponents. Primarily a winger, Machado has done well for the Highlanders in attack and has been their most consistent player in the final-third. He will want to make his mark in the semis and must be marked tightly by the Kolkata giants’ defence. That said, ATK Mohun Bagan have big guns in attack themselves. Their talisman Roy Krishna is the leading goal-scorer (14) in the league this season and has spearheaded their forward line with distinction. The Fijian has scored against the Highlanders in both the previous matches this campaign and he will be the Mariners’ biggest attacking threat in the semis.


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