Onus on Bengaluru to overturn one-goal deficit at home against depleted NorthEast
Bengaluru FC will be looking to overturn a one-goal deficit against NorthEast United FC in their home leg of their semi-final clash of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Monday. With the first leg in Guwahati having ended in a 2-1 win for the Highlanders, a 1-0 victory will be enough to send the Blues through to the final because of the away goal rule. On the other hand, a draw will favour NorthEast. A 2-1 result for the home team will send the fixture to extra time, while NorthEast scoring more than a goal will need Bengaluru to triumph by two goals or more to secure a spot in the final.
Despite losing out 2-1 in the first leg, Carles Cuadrat’s men will back themselves to progress to their second final in as many seasons, considering they do have the home advantage and the luxury of having scored an away goal in the reverse fixture last Thursday. The Blues have been unbeaten at home this season, winning six and drawing three of their nine matches.
Bengaluru fans will hope their forward three - Udanta Singh, Sunil Chhetri and Miku have more influence on the match than they had in Guwahati. While scoring will be essential, conceding a goal will make things a lot more difficult for Bengaluru. Their back four - Juanan, Albert Serran, Rahul Bheke and Nishu Kumar - will need to be extra vigilant to make sure they deny the Highlanders the opportunity to score on Monday.
New signing Alejandro Barrera started the first leg at Guwahati but looked a tad off the pace. However, head coach Carles Cuadrat, in his pre-match press conference, hinted that the Spaniard will start alongside Dimas Delgado on Monday too. Last match’s goal scorer Xisco Hernandez may have a role to play off the bench.
Here’s a look at Bengaluru’s current season in numbers:
Despite holding a one-goal advantage, Northeast will go into the match with a bit of a handicap. Highlanders head coach Eelco Schattorie will be missing several of his key players in the match due to injuries, most notably star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche and midfield general Rowllin Borges, both of whom came off after the first half in Guwahati after sustaining hamstring injuries. Despite Schattorie opting to remain coy on their status at the pre-match press conference, it's highly unlikely that either of them will be fit for Monday’s fixture. To put their importance in the team into context, Ogbeche (12 goals and 2 assists) and Borges (4 goals and 2 assists) have directly contributed to 20 of the 24 goals NorthEast have scored this season. Juan Mascia did well to lead the line after coming in for Ogbeche in the last match and even scored the late penalty to win the first leg for the Highlanders. In the likely event of Ogbeche missing out, the Argentine will be expected to lead the line against Bengaluru on Monday. Nikhil Kadam is the likeliest candidate to take over Borges’ spot in the middle of the park. Federico Gallego, Jose Leudo, Redeem Tlang and Lalthathanga Khawlhring are expected to constitute the rest of the midfield five.
Schattorie will, however, have Gurwinder Singh back from suspension but with keeping a clean sheet paramount in the fixture, may still opt to double up on foreign recruits at the heart of the defence with Mato Grgic and Janeiler Rivas. New signing Rivas has been particularly impressive in the two starts he got after joining the team late last month. A clean sheet will be enough to send the Highlanders through to the final and shutting out the opposition has been one of the trademarks of Schattorie's side this season. They had the meanest defence in the league stages conceding just 18 goals (lesser than any team) and kept eight clean sheets (joint-highest along with FC Goa).
To counter Bengaluru’s home record this season, NorthEast fans can take heart from the fact that the Highlanders have been the most successful team on the road in the Hero ISL 2018-19 league campaign, picking up 5 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses.
Here’s a look at NorthEast’s current season in numbers:
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Rahul Bheke, Albert Serran, Juanan, Harmanjot Khabra, Nishu Kumar, Dimas Delgado, Alejandro Barrera, Udanta Singh, Sunil Chhetri (C), Miku
NorthEast United FC: Pawan Kumar (GK), Janeiler Rivas, Reagan Singh, Mato Grgic, Robert Lalthlamuana (C), Redeem Tlang, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Nikhil Kadam, Federico Gallego, Jose Leudo, Juan Mascia
DID YOU KNOW?
- NorthEast United have conceded the least number of goals from counter attacks this season (2).
- Bengaluru FC haven’t lost a single game after leading at half time this season. (5 Wins, 1 Draw).
- Bengaluru were the only team to stay unbeaten at home in the league stage.
Which goalkeeper will have the biggest impact on this match?
- Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
- Pawan Kumar
Have your say in the comments section below.
Catch the match live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV at 7.30 PM.