Kerala aim to end eight-match winless run against NorthEast
Kerala Blasters FC welcome NorthEast United FC to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday for both teams' final match of the 2019 calendar year. Eelco Schattorie's men are winless in their last eight Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 matches and will be eager to break the trend against the Highlanders and end the year on a high. Robert Jarni and Co, on the other hand, have their own axe to grind and are themselves winless in their last four outings, having played out two losses and two draws.
Ever since their opening day triumph over ATK FC, Kerala have failed to register a win this campaign. Currently ninth in the standings with just seven points from nine, it's imperative for the Kochi-based side to start picking up wins in succession if they are to stay relevant in the race for the top four heading into the business end of the campaign.
A leaky defence has been the major concern for the Blasters, with several high-profile injuries not helping their cause. Kerala have conceded 13 goals in nine matches and have particularly struggled while defending set-pieces. In fact, six of the thirteen they let in came from direct set-piece moves.
The attack has struggled as well and despite having big names like Bartholomew Ogbeche, Sergio Cidoncha, Sahal Abdul Samad and Mario Arques in their ranks, Kerala have only managed nine goals in nine matches. Overdependence on Messi Bouli and Ogbeche have been another downfall, with the two accounting for seven of the nine goals the team has managed thus far. With very little, if any, goal threat coming from the rest of the team, crowding the forward duo out of games has been a ploy effectively used by several teams thus far and the trend is most likely to continue if the midfielders and defenders don't step up to help the two forwards out.
Following a six-match unbeaten start to the season, the Highlanders have faltered of late, slumping to consecutive defeats in their last two matches. What's even more worrying is that the defence has let in five goals in the last two after conceding six in their first six.
Like Kerala, NorthEast have had their woes in the offensive front as well, having scored just eight goals so far in eight matches - the lowest tally in the league currently. Asamoah Gyan sustained an injury and had to be taken off after just nine minutes in the match against ATK FC - a tie which eventually turned out to be the Highlanders' first loss of the season. The knock kept the Ghanaian talisman out in the subsequent match against Bengaluru, which the Highlanders ended up losing 2-0.
However, with Gyan reportedly nearing a return to full fitness, NorthEast fans will hope the 34-year-old has a part to play against Kerala. To reiterate Gyan's importance to the NorthEast team, the ace forward has been directly involved in four (three goals and an assist) of their eight goals so far. One stat which will be working on the Highlanders' favour will be the fact that they are yet to lose away from home this season.
Did you know?
- Kerala have drawn their last three matches in a row.
- NorthEast United are unbeaten away from home.
- NorthEast have scored the joint-lowest goals (8) so far this season.
Which of the two sides will return to winning ways and end the year on a high?
Live Broadcast Schedule:
Hero ISL 2019-20 Match 48: Kerala Blasters FC vs NorthEast United FC
Date: December 28 (Saturday)
Time: 7:30 PM onwards
Channels: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Hotstar and Jio TV