Indian Super League (ISL) outfit NorthEast United FC will be looking to open their Durand Cup 2023 campaign on a winning note as they take on Shillong Lajong FC in the opening game of Group D at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati, on Friday.

NorthEast United FC have brought a new head coach on board, roping in the experienced Juan Pedro Benali. The Highlanders will be aiming for an optimistic start under his tenure, having also required a new set of foreign players.

NorthEast United FC finished at the bottom of the standings during the ISL 2022-23 season, but ensured a positive end to the season by reaching the semi-finals of the Super Cup.

“Well, it’s only the beginning. Slowly, everyday with each training, it’s getting much better. Players are starting to understand what we are looking for. We are working really hard,” Benali said on his side’s pre-season preparations.

In the 2022 Durand Cup, NEUFC were drawn alongside Kerala Blasters FC, Odisha FC, Army Green and Sudeva Delhi. The Guwahati-based side endured a disappointing campaign, finishing fourth in their group after just one victory. The side will be keen to put on a better show this time around and Benali urged his team to treat every game like a final.

“It’s a big tournament in Asia. It’s one of the oldest tournaments in the world. We need to respect that. The most important thing is to respect our fans, our club, our name and our region. We need to play every game like it is a final. We need to see our players (level), what we can achieve and we will take it as an exercise if we need more players or not,” Benali stated.

The match will kick off at 6:00 PM IST and will be shown LIVE on Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 2 HD channels and will be streamed LIVE on Sony LIV.