Match 7 Preview: Kerala look for first points of the season against defensively sound NorthEast
After a strong start to their 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) campaign, NorthEast United FC will be looking to continue their run when they take on Kerala Blasters FC at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Thursday.
The Highlanders put on a solid display against Mumbai City FC in their previous game, demonstrating their defensive skills greatly in the 1-0 win. Meanwhile, Kerala head coach Kibu Vicuna will look to register his first win following a 1-0 loss to ATK Mohun Bagan in the opening game of Hero ISL 2020-21.
In 12 matches between them, Kerala Blasters have a slight advantage, having beaten the Highlanders five times. NorthEast, meanwhile, have three wins to their name. The remaining four have ended in draws. However, Kerala have been unable to beat the Highlanders in any of their last four meetings.
Sharing his thoughts ahead of the game in the pre-match press conference, Vicuna said, “They [NorthEast] played well against Mumbai. They are an organised team. They also had chances and tried to play out from the goalkeeper and tried to perform fast counter-attacks. We controlled the game against ATK Mohun Bagan but they scored. We have to improve in the final third.”
Kerala created quite a few chances against ATK Mohun Bagan in their previous game but failed to have a single shot on target. So Vicuna’s attackers will have their task cut out against the likes of Dylan Fox, Ashutosh Mehta and Khassa Camara, who were brilliant for NorthEast against Mumbai City.
Kamara particularly led the way with 10 attempted tackles, most by any player in the match. His five successful tackles were also the most by any player. Camara also made three interceptions and was rightly named Hero of the Match.
Kerala Blasters FC lacked the cutting edge required to beat ATK Mohun Bagan, and their inability to convert their opportunities might come back to haunt them. Kerala attempted nine shots but failed to trouble ATK Mohun Bagan’s keeper Arindam Bhattacharja even once. Their main goal-scoring threat Gary Hooper also struggled on his Hero ISL debut, managing just one shot in addition to his low passing accuracy of 46.66, the worst among all Kerala players.
“Kerala Blasters have one of the best squads in the Hero ISL for sure. I see them like a very tough team to play against. I watched the first game that they played. They are unbelievable in terms of build-up, strength, set-pieces. I see them as a very hard team to play. They are a solid side so I believe it is going to be a hard side to play against,” said NorthEast head coach Gerard Nus ahead of his side’s clash with the Kochi giants.
Kerala Blasters FC
Goalkeepers: Albino Gomes, Bilal Husain Khan, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Muheet Khan.
Defenders: Costa Nhamoinesu, Nishu Kumar, Bakary Kone, Jessel Carneiro, Sandeep Singh, Abdul Hakku, Lalruatthara
Midfielders: Sergio Cidoncha, Sahal Abdul Samad, Vicente Gomez, Seityasen Singh, Rahul KP, Givson Singh, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Yondrembem Denechandra, Nongdamba Naorem, Arjun Jayaraj, Ayush Adhikari, Jeakson Singh, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Ritwik Das, Rohit Kumar
Forwards: Gary Hooper, Jordan Murray, Facundo Pereyra, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Shaiborlang Kharpan.
NorthEast United FC
Goalkeepers: Gurmeet, Nikhil Deka, Sanjiban Ghosh, Subhasish Roy
Defenders: Ashutosh Mehta, Benjamin Lambot, Dylan Fox, Gurjinder Kumar, Mashoor Shereef, Nabin Rabha, Nim Dorjee, Provat Lakra, Rakesh Pradhan, Wayne Vaz
Midfielders: Federico Gallego, Imran Khan, Khassa Camara, Lalengmawia, Lalrempuia Fanai, Pragyan Gogoi, Rochharzela
Forwards: Britto PM, Idrissa Sylla, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Kwesi Appiah, Lalkhawpuimawia, Luis Machado, Suhair Vadakkepeedika
Live Broadcast Schedule:
Hero ISL 2020-21 Match 7: Kerala Blasters FC vs NorthEast United FC
Date: November 26 (Thursday)
Time: 7:30 PM onwards
Channels: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar and Jio TV