NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali foresees a formidable challenge as his team gears up to face Bengaluru FC in the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday.

The Highlanders are winless in each of their last five matches, and Benali's men are determined to return to winning ways against Bengaluru FC. The Blues, who recently secured a 1-0 victory against Jamshedpur FC under their newly appointed head coach, Gerard Zaragoza, to end their seven-match winless streak will now aim to continue their unbeaten run against NorthEast United FC at home.

Benali refrains from drawing parallels with their previous encounter, a 1-1 draw against Bengaluru FC in the reverse fixture, as he observes the Blues have changed their approach under Zaragoza. Benali anticipates a very difficult game against Bengaluru FC but urges his players to give their best to achieve a positive result in their next away match.

"It will be totally different game (against Bengaluru FC)," Benali stated in the pre-match press conference.

"They are a different team (now), with a different coach and a different approach in their field. (They have the) Same point as us. It'll be a very difficult game. But we'll do our job; when we play away we always try to get the best as possible. For us to play there (away) or here (home), it is the same," he added.

NorthEast United FC are currently in the eighth position with 10 points from 10 matches. Benali acknowledges the significance of every game and emphasizes that he needs time to create a balance in the squad.

"All the games are crucial for us," Benali said.

"Every game we play, we try to get the best. The problem is that sometimes it doesn't go as you want because there's another team in front of you as well. But I'm proud of the players and proud of the team. Because even against Mohun Bagan Super Giant or against the big teams we played, we showed that we have a level to be higher. That's what we want. But we are building a team. We cannot go from 0 to 100 in five or four months. We need time. We put in young players to play with the veteran players, and that's very important for us," he explained.

Benali urges his players to maintain confidence and focus on themselves, emphasizing that he wants them to believe they are not inferior to their opponents. He acknowledges the challenge of having 13 or 14 players in his squad who are new to the ISL, making it difficult to build a stable team.

However, the Spaniard is determined to overcome this challenge and establish a solid foundation for the squad.

"The most important thing is just to be confident and to be ourselves. The problem is, sometimes we're in a hurry. We want to score the second goal before we score the first. Just to be patient and to play in our way, to not get frustrated. And that's the problem for young players," he said.

"This year we have 13 or 14 players who are new to ISL, and to build and make a very stable team (with them) is not easy. And this is what we're looking for," Benali added.

"What I say to the players is: Just be ourselves. The teams in front of us are not better than us," the Spaniard signed off.

I have learned many things: Asheer Akhtar


Asheer Akhtar accompanied Benali in the press conference ahead of their next away game against Bengaluru FC. Akhtar also expresses his opinion that it takes time to instil confidence in players who are playing in the ISL for the first time.

“It's not easy to build the confidence to play with 14 players who are new to the ISL,” he stated.

“We have played many teams that are in the top six or better in the table, like Mumbai City FC, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, Odisha FC, and Kerala Blasters FC. I think we have done a great job according to what we have trained. Now, slowly, we are on the path,” the defender added.

Akhtar shared that it's a great experience to play under Benali, who has extensive coaching experience spanning over 20–25 years.

Speaking in context, he said: “It's really a nice experience.”

“He has been a coach for more than 20–25 years, so he has great experience working in different countries. Having had those experiences, many things I have learned are very new to me. I have learned many things under the coach,” he concluded.