Hero ISL 2022-23, NorthEast United FC preview: Revamped Highlanders eye revival under Marco Balbul

NorthEast United FC will be looking to bounce back in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 campaign after finishing tenth last season, securing just three wins during the entire campaign.

The Highlanders have not been the most consistent side in Hero ISL history with just two appearances in the play-off stages of the league since its inception in 2014. However, the Guwahati-based side have come close on numerous occasions to make the semi-finals, eventually missing out by narrow margins.

Season

Outcome

2014

8th place (bottom of the table)

2015

5th place (just outside playoff places)

2016

5th place (just outside playoff places)

2017-18

10th place (bottom of the table)

2018-19

4th place (Reached semi-finals)

2019-20

9th place

2020-21

3rd place (Reached semi-finals)

2021-22

10th place (Second from bottom)

The club has managed to build a strong fan base in the NorthEast region of India and are always well supported in Guwahati where they play their home games.

A chance to play in front of home fans again will boost NorthEast United FC’s chances of having a much better season this time around as they aim to secure a top-six spot under new head coach Marco Balbul.

The Highlanders have revamped their squad, especially their foreign contingent ahead of the new season and are looking for a fresh start.

Team composition and transfer dealings

NorthEast United FC will go into the new season with a fairly young squad with just six players above the age of 30. Four of those are foreign players which means the onus will be on them to lead the side which is full of potential but there’s a challenge with the inexperience as well.

The squad has a good balance in terms of numbers across the defensive and attacking areas with Balbul having a good variety of Indian and foreign players to choose from in attack.

In defence, the Highlanders will largely rely on Indian talent with just one foreign defender in their ranks in the shape of Michael Jakobsen.

Transfers:

INs: Romain Phillippoteaux, Matt Derbyshire, Jon Gaztanaga, Michael Jakobsen, Aaron Evans, Emil Benny, Arindam Bhattacharja, Jithin MS, Parthib Gogoi, Gaurav Bora

OUTs: Zakaria Diallo, Deshorn Brown, Marco Sahanek, Federico Gallego, Lalkhawmpuimawia, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, William Lalnunfela, Nabin Rabha, Sanjiban Ghosh, Suhair VP, Jestin George, Patrick Flottman

For the full squad of NorthEast United FC, click here.

Expert’s Take

Darren Caldeira on the squad: The squad is definitely not one of the stronger ones on paper, but it's a good mix of youth and experience. If football has taught us anything it's all about the desire and mentality on the matchday. Marco Balbul is known for his sides being organised and if he can get them playing as a cohesive unit, they could be difficult to beat.

Darren Caldeira on the transfer business: They've managed to get in some good young players in Jithin MS and Emil Benny and also managed to hold onto a few key members of the side - Gurjinder Singh, Imran Khan, Danmawia, Chhara. Arindam Bhattacharja is a massive signing in terms of experience. Gaurav Bora has been on the circuit for some time now as well. It's the foreign signings of NorthEast United FC that look very exciting. Matt Derbyshire, Jon Gaztañaga, Romain Philippoteaux in particular.

Darren Caldeira’s players to watch out for: Imran Khan and Romain Philippoteaux

Fixtures

The Highlanders have a tough start to the season as they begin their campaign away to Durand Cup winners Bengaluru FC. Their first home game at the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium in Guwahati is against defending champions Hyderabad FC.

NorthEast United FC finish their league stage campaign away to Chennaiyin FC with their last home game seeing Odisha FC as the visitors.

For full fixtures of NorthEast United FC, click here.

Darren Caldeira’s verdict: Definitely a better performance than last season, but won't make the Top 6.

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