Bengaluru FC look to sort forward line issues against strengthened NorthEast United FC

NorthEast United FC will host Bengaluru FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati in Matchweek 14 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) on Friday. Both sides have had their share of struggles this season. NorthEast United FC sit at the bottom of the ISL table with just one win all season, whereas Bengaluru FC sit in 9th place with 10 points on the board.

New NorthEast United FC head coach Vincenzo Annese has been in charge of four games so far. His side have suffered some heavy defeats, including a 7-3 loss to Chennaiyin FC and a 6-1 loss to Hyderabad FC, but he has also led NorthEast United FC to their first win of the season against ATK Mohun Bagan. A win in this fixture could lift them off the bottom of the table for the first time since Matchweek 3.

This week, NorthEast United FC confirmed the signing of defender Hira Mondal on a free transfer after he parted ways with Bengaluru FC, and he could be in line to make a debut against his former club as the Highlanders continue trying to find the right balance between attack and defence. Annese suggested in his pre-match conference that he was not content despite leading the side to their first win and scoring in three matches since his arrival.

“I lost three, I won one. For sure, I’m not happy with my performance. For me, it’s really important that the guys improve. We are really – during the training, I saw that the guys miss the ball a lot, but right now, we are one step higher than before, and I am happy with the way we start to train now.” he said.

Unlike NorthEast United FC, Bengaluru FC haven’t had too many issues defensively – they’ve conceded 17 goals so far this season, which puts them in the top half in that metric. It’s at the other end of the pitch where the problems lie. No team has scored fewer than their eight goals this season. This will be especially worrying given the presence of two of the highest goalscorers in ISL history within their ranks. Sunil Chhetri is second and Roy Krishna is fourth on the list of top goalscorers in ISL history, but have only managed a goal each in 11 games.

Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson suggested that his team have been a bit unlucky this season. “It’s really hard at times and frustrating. We keep saying these things in every press conference. We’re more or less saying the same thing – we’re so close to being a good team and getting onto a winning run, but, at the moment, we just can’t seem to be able to put that into practice or get over the line to get the wins,” he said.

Bengaluru FC have a favourable head-to-head record in this fixture. They’ve won seven, lost two, and drawn four of their 13 games against NorthEast United FC. Alan Costa scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for Bengaluru FC when the two sides last met in October. (Hero ISL standings)

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