Season Preview: New signings-fuelled, NorthEast United FC look prepared for the job

NorthEast United FC have built a formidable squad for the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) season as the club look to compete for a place in the top four -- to begin with. The Highlanders will be led by Spanish head coach Gerard Nus, whose tactical knowledge and experience across four continents will be key to the fortunes of the club.

The Highlanders finished 9th last season with just two wins in 18 games after injuries to some of the key members of the team. The club appears to have learnt from that, and under Nus’ supervision that issue has been addressed adequately ahead of this season.      

In new-arrivals Ashutosh Mehta and Gurjinder Kumar, NorthEast United FC have experienced defensive heads with familiarity with the Hero ISL. They have also added experienced Belgian Benjamin Lambot as well as Australian Dylan Fox, who at 26, has arrived in India at the height of his defensive powers. Furthermore, the club have also retained Nim Dorjee, Wayne Vaz and Provat Lakra, earning some bragging rights in the defence department.

The extension of midfielder Federico Gallego’s contract will be the biggest boost for the Highlanders, and the club’s fans will hope that the Uruguayan can replicate the form he demonstrated when the club reached the top four during the 2018-19 season. The Highlanders’ midfield has also been reinforced with the addition of Khassa Camara, who will also look to provide a solid cover for the defensive line.

Camara’s presence in the midfield will mean that one of their best players last season, Lalengmawia can play more of an attacking role this season. Lalengmawia has spoken about his desire to play further up the pitch and it will be interesting to see where he plays with now Nus at the helm.

The Highlanders have bolstered their attack with the additions of Guinean Idrissa Sylla, Portuguese Luis Machado and Ghanaian Kwesi Appiah, all of whom have experience playing at the highest levels. As regards their Indian forwards, only 19-year-old Ninthoinganba Meetei has Hero ISL experience.

Britto PM and Suhair Vadakkepeedika played for Mohun Bagan AC during their title-winning 2019-20 campaign, and although both players are yet to play in the Hero ISL, they add plenty of experience to the NorthEast United FC attack. They also have Lalkhawpuimawia in the attacking department, who won the Hero I-League with Aizawl FC in 2017.

With these signings ahead of the new season, the club has indeed addressed the squad depth issue they faced last season, and now they will sure look to play a fearless and exhilarating brand of football under an exciting young coach.

Best Finish: Fourth during the 2018-19 Hero ISL

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Gurmeet, Nikhil Deka, Sanjiban Ghosh, Subhasish Roy

Defenders: Ashutosh Mehta, Benjamin Lambot, Dylan Fox, Gurjinder Kumar, Mashoor Shereef, Nabin Rabha, Nim Dorjee, Provat Lakra, Rakesh Pradhan, Wayne Vaz

Midfielders: Federico Gallego, Imran Khan, Khassa Camara, Lalengmawia, Lalrempuia Fanai, Pragyan Gogoi, Rochharzela

Forwards: Britto PM, Idrissa Sylla, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Kwesi Appiah, Lalkhawpuimawia, Luis Machado, Suhair Vadakkepeedika

Fixtures:

Vs Mumbai City FC – November 21

Vs Kerala Blasters FC – November 26

Vs FC Goa – November 30

Vs SC East Bengal – December 5

Vs Bengaluru FC – December 8

Vs Chennaiyin FC – December 13

Vs Jamshedpur FC – December 18

Vs Odisha FC – December 22

Vs ATK Mohun Bagan – January 3

Vs Hyderabad FC – January 8

*Fixture list for NorthEast United FC announced as of now

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