NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali is optimistic as his team prepares to travel to the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata to take on East Bengal FC for matchweek 8 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Monday. 

The Highlanders will look forward to securing their third win of the season. After over a month from their last victory, NorthEast United FC are motivated to take home all three points from the fixture, having secured a point from their last match against a top-class Bengaluru FC.

The Spanish tactician feels that the draw against the Blues was important for his team as they managed a point playing against a big team with great international players. “The mood is great because everybody knows that our objective is to go game by game. Bengaluru FC game we could win? Yes, of course, against a very big team, against international players. That's very important for us to put us, that we see that our level is not so down to the others. We're always happy,” stated Benali in the pre-match press conference.

Mohammed Ali Bemammer will be unavailable for the clash due to suspension. Addressing Ali’s absence, Benali said, “We have 26 players, you know. We need to find a solution. Everybody is ready to play, and I think that the player will put in place of Ali, they will do a great job.”

NorthEast United FC last met with the Red and Gold Brigade in the Durand Cup 2023 semi-final where they suffered an unfortunate defeat in the penalty shootout.

The 54-year-old believes that there is no need to compare that match to their meeting on Monday as all the Highlanders will look forward to is taking the best possible result from it. He said, “Every game has its history. You know you cannot compare games. You cannot compare competitions. This is a different game. This is a league game. We're going there to get the best result possible. And the past is the past.”

Spanish centre-back Michel Zabaco has bagged himself his second consecutive NorthEast United FC Player of the Month award. 

Addressing his influence on the team, Benali said, “Zabaco is a captain in and out of the field, an experienced guy. He's giving the best and we hope he's still like this.”

The head coach feels that even the players who are not there on their player’s list while travelling to the stadiums deserve credit as they help push the players to take the field better themselves. He added, “And the others also for me it’s not only him, the player of the month, you know, even the players who are not on the list to travel. They're working hard every day in the training sessions to make the players look good. It's not only the players who are playing. I thank a lot the players (who) were not playing because every day they're fighting, they're working and making it difficult.”

Defender Dinesh Singh accompanied Benali for the press conference. Explaining how the coach has helped him in his first ISL season, Singh shared, “He always corrects me and gives me motivation. Whenever I make a mistake, he corrects me and it motivates me a lot.”