Don't judge teams on paper: East Bengal FC's Stephen Constantine on NorthEast United FC
East Bengal FC head coach Stephen Constantine wanted his team to give a tough fight to get their first consecutive wins in this season as East Bengal FC host NorthEast United FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Wednesday.
East Bengal FC head coach Stephen Constantine wants his team to put up a strong show to win consecutive games for the first time this season as East Bengal FC host NorthEast United FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Wednesday.
East Bengal FC are coming into this fixture after a morale-boosting 1-0 win against Kerala Blasters FC, who are third in the league table. Whereas NorthEast United FC are coming after a 0-2 loss against Jamshedpur FC, who are at 10th in the table. Despite the contrasting form ahead of the game, Constantine doesn't want to judge the opponents based on the position and expects a tough battle on Wednesday.
"I don't judge teams on paper. I judge them on the field and I think they have improved in recent weeks. They brought in two-three players and I don't judge a team by where they are in the table. All the games in the Hero ISL are difficult games. We have to be completely focused and play the football that we played last week. If we do that, we will get the three points. But if we don't do all the things that we are supposed to do, we are not going to win, they (NEUFC) didn't come here to lose. They would fight and as they have done for the last six months. So I expect that them to fight and we will fight too," Constantine said in the pre-match press conference.
East Bengal FC displayed a complete performance in the last game and got only their second clean sheet of the season. In that game, Suhair Vadakkepeedika and Mohammad Mobashir Rahman played vital roles in keeping the clean sheet and helping the team to get the win but both of them will miss the next fixture due to suspension. The EBFC head coach expects the other players, who are going to play on Wednesday, to grab the opportunity and rise up to the occasion.
"You're going to have injuries and suspensions and that's why we have 24 players. Obviously, Rahman has been playing very well recently so we will miss him. But now, the next guy has to step up and play and if he plays well, then he gets the opportunity. This is football. It's about getting the opportunity and taking the opportunity. So the two players who will replace Suhair and Rahman have to step up," he said.
Jake Jervis has played his first game in the Hero ISL against Kerala Blasters FC in the Red and Gold shirt. In the 4-4-2 formation, Jervis gave support to Cleiton Silva, which he lacked till now and it reflected in the way East Bengal FC played. The English player's strong physical presence upfront and his hold-up play was a big advantage for the team going forward. Constantine was satisfied with his performance and appreciated the new dimension he brought to the team.
"He (Jervis) hasn't played a 90 minute game for three months. As in Finland, they finished in October, so the game against KBFC, was the first game for him. We expected him to last for 70 minutes. He did. He gave us a different dimension and he'll be fine for the game on Wednesday," he added.
In the reverse fixture in October, East Bengal FC beat NorthEast United FC with a 3-1 scoreline in Guwahati. Cleiton Silva, Charis Kyriacou, Jordan O'Doherty were on the scoresheet. Since then NorthEast United FC underwent many changes with a departure of foreign players and head coach. The EBFC head coach appreciated the efforts of Vincenzo Annese and cautioned his team that they need to give everything to get the result.
"They (NEUFC) changed the coach. So there will be different looks for them. They have a hard working team. They fight very hard and with a lot of determination. We saw the Jamshedpur FC game, where they were a little unlucky to lose the game. If we think that, we are just going to win the game because we beat Kerala Blasters FC then we are gonna have a problem. So we have to keep our feet on the ground," he concluded.
Mohamad Rakip, a 22-year-old defender, was accompanied by Constantine in the pre-match press conference. Rakip replaced Ankit Mukherjee in the last match at the 16th minute and helped the team to keep the first clean sheet of this season. Despite playing just 129 minutes so far in three matches, the Imphal born playerhas five tackles, seven clearances and five blocks to his name. The right back is confident of the team's future and expects them to do well in the upcoming competitions.
"Our confidence is high after beating Kerala Blasters FC. The coach gave me a chance and I proved that I can play. I gave a good performance against a tough opponent, so it gives confidence to me and the team. So, the aim now will be to perform well in all the remaining matches and to do well in the Super Cup and try and qualify for the AFC Cup," he said.