NorthEast United FC are still looking for their first points of the season as they go head-to-head with ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday. The Mariners are looking to cut the deficit to the top spot, sitting four points behind Mumbai City FC who play earlier in the evening, while the Highlanders will be hoping to turn things around in the second half of the season.

Two out of the last three defeats for NorthEast United FC have been by a narrow margin of just one goal, including the last one against FC Goa. New head coach Vincenzo Annese stated after the previous match that his side lacked aggression.

Highlanders forward Wilmar Jordan has now scored two goals in the last two games for the club. The striker has scored both of these goals from the spot. For creativity, the club are relying on Romain Philippoteaux. The Frenchman has created several chances but only has a goal and an assist to his name so far this season as NorthEast United FC continue to work on the finishing touch in attack. (Club statistics)

“We have improved a lot in this period. The players are starting to understand my philosophy. They were used to a different training regime before this. But, in a span of 14 days, the players are slowly starting to give what I’ve asked for and that is quite amazing,” said Annese. “We are working on physical training and work ethic. The behaviour and commitment of players have been great, and we do not have any problems in training. Now, we only have to change the mentality and be consistent,” he added.

ATK Mohun Bagan kickstarted the previous Matchweek with the season’s first goalless draw against Odisha FC. Coming into this game, the Mariners are unbeaten in four games and have kept four consecutive clean sheets.

Hugo Boumous has three goals and three assists under his belt so far. Half of those goal contributions have come in the last four matches. The midfielder was left on the bench in the game last week but is likely to retake his starting XI spot in the next game against NorthEast United FC. (Club statistics)

“In the second leg, the motivation and thoughts will be different. It is very important to be ready because winning the three points is necessary. The last ten matches are very important for all the teams,” said head coach Juan Ferrando. “The next match is going to be difficult because the results of the last few matches of NorthEast are not important. What is important is to have control over our team, keep our emotions in check and give our best in the game,” he added.

Subhashish Bose scored a last-gasp winner the last time these two sides met earlier this season. Including that match, the two sides have met seven times in the Hero ISL. The Mariners have won five of those encounters, while the Highlanders have a solitary win. (Hero ISL standings)