Talking point: Can NorthEast keep their momentum intact in the race for a top-four spot?

Match 104 of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 will see NorthEast United FC take on SC East Bengal at the Fatorda Stadium on Tuesday. The Highlanders will be eyeing the double over the Red and Gold Brigade and a win will keep their hopes of a semi-final berth on track. Meanwhile, SC East Bengal, who are currently ninth in the league standings will be playing for pride as they look to finish their campaign on a high. Here, we look at the talking points from the upcoming clash between the teams. 

A win is imperative for the Highlanders in the fight for top-four

Since Khalid Jamil took over as the interim head coach of the club, the Highlanders have shown a new dimension to their game. They won the first three matches under Jamil, beating ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC during that time. But with just one victory in their last four matches, the Highlanders need to win their remaining two matches beginning with the one against SC East Bengal to maintain the pressure on their rivals in the race for a top-four spot. A draw or loss for the Highlanders will prove advantageous for their top-four rivals FC Goa and Hyderabad FC. 

SC East Bengal’s attackers have struggled to finish

The Kolkata-based club boast some big names in their attacking unit, but their inability to consistently score goals has cost them in the final phase of the league stage. SC East Bengal have scored only five goals in their last six matches and one of them was an own goal. They have a low shot accuracy of 22.41% during this period, hitting the target only 13 times in six games. Their inconsistent performances in the attacking third has also witnessed the Red and Gold Brigade taking only 36 shots from open play in their last six matches, which is the lowest in the league during this period. 

January signing Deshorn Brown has improved the Highlanders’ attack

NorthEast United’s improved attack has propelled them into contention for the top four. One player who has stood out for them over the past two months has been their January signing Deshorn Brown. Since joining from Bengaluru FC, Brown has five goals and all of them have been scored from open play. His ability to convert chances has eased the pressure of expectancy from the likes of of Luis Machado and Federico Gallego, who were shouldering the burden of making things happen for the Highlanders in attack prior to the Jamaican’s arrival. The three attackers have scored a combined 16 of NorthEast’s 27 goals this season.

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