NorthEast United FC head coach Vincenzo Annese highlighted the importance of getting a win away from home as the Highlanders take on Chennaiyin FC in their final league fixture of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennaiyin, on Friday.

NorthEast United FC have witnessed an underwhelming season so far, registering just five points from 19 games this season and will finish the campaign at the bottom of the table. They have registered just one win all season.

They have struggled to register results away from home, going winless in nine away games this season that includes eight defeats. NEUFC are the only team this season to have not registered a win away from home this season. However, Annese hopes to put that right in their final league fixture.

“The last game is going to be important for continuity and to prepare for the Hero Super Cup. We have to make the guys ready. We need to have a mentality to face a team away from home and get a good result, which we have only done in one game this season (against ATK Mohun Bagan). We have lost all of our away games, so it’s important to change the mentality (while playing away from home) and try to get results outside from home,” Annese stated in the pre-match press conference.

NorthEast United FC’s opponents, Chennaiyin FC are already out of reckoning for the playoffs, but are playing for pride. They have secured wins in the previous two games and will be high on confidence.

Thomas Brdaric’s side are the third highest scoring team this season and have scored the most number of goals from counter-attack. Annese was aware of Chennaiyin FC’s strengths and called for his side to be on top of their defensive game.

“They won their last game. They played with the foreign African striker (Karikari). I like him so much. Vincy Barretto was my player at Gokulam Kerala FC. He is a fast and amazing player. They are strong.. We have to be attentive in the box and we need to do more man-to-man marking,” Annese said.

The Highlanders went down in a seven-goal thriller against Chennaiyin FC during the reverse fixture, which was Annese’s first game as the head coach of NorthEast United FC. The Highlanders have registered just five points under Annese across 11 games this season after failing to pick up a point in their opening eight games under former head coach Marco Balbul. Annese was pleased with his team’s progress despite their poor run of results.

“We are a different team now (compared to when we last played against Chennaiyin FC). We play more with the ball now, we have more possession unlike before. We try to create more chances than the opponent, even in the last game at home against East Bengal FC. We are a team that creates a lot of chances. I’m happy about the job we have done until now. I know the results are not coming but I hope that we continue this way. We need to believe in ourselves. We need to try to win this game and put up a good performance,” Annese explained.

Annese was accompanied by NorthEast United FC striker and captain Wilmar Gil in the pre-match press conference. The Colombian striker, who joined the club in November, has been a key figure for the Highlanders. Gil has netted six goals across 10 games and is the leading goalscorer for NEUFC this season.

The 32-year-old striker spoke about his role as a captain and his mentality to win each game.

“I am motivated all the time and I want to motivate my team as a captain. I want to win each game. It doesn’t matter if it’s the last game of the season. I try to lead in training sessions and during the game as well as captain. We will play to win against Chennaiyin FC,” Gil said.