Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG), buoyed by the unbeaten streak of FC Goa, is gearing up to host a similarly confident NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata to kick off the Saturday double header of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on February 17 at 5 p.m. The Mariners must be understandably buoyant after managing to put brakes over a seemingly unstoppable FC Goa unit, that too in Fatorda.

Dimitrios Petratos rose to the occasion to deliver a decisive blow that will have ripple effects at the top of the table, and Antonio Lopez Habas must be looking to continue that impressive run when they welcome the Highlanders on Saturday.

On the other hand, NEUFC beat MBSG rivals East Bengal FC in a thrilling 3-2 encounter in Guwahati last Saturday. Powered by the incoming of striker Tomi Juric, their attack donned a sudden lethal look that took the Red & Gold Brigade aback immediately.

Interestingly, both sides head into this contest on the back of momentum and form favouring them. The Mariners had made light work of NEUFC when they last met in the ISL in December, but one must surely expect a more gripping and competitive contest this time around, given the context and circumstances.

What’s at stake?

Mohun Bagan Super Giant

Slowly but steadily, Habas and his plans are taking shape in the MBSG unit. With their win against FC Goa, they have now kept clean sheets in consecutive matches for the first time in this ISL season. Despite three losses and two draws, along with the departure of Juan Ferrando as the head coach, the team has accumulated 26 points in the first 13 games of this ISL season – which is their highest tally at this stage of any campaign of the competition so far. Moreover, the eight victories they have garnered thus far is their most wins after the aforementioned number of matches as well, suggesting that things might not be as troublesome as it appeared to be at one point of the season for MBSG.

An interesting pattern in their gameplay is that they get into the groove after an initial period of adjustment, having yet to concede a goal and netted five times between minutes 16-30 of their matches in ISL 2023-24. Wins against Hyderabad FC and FC Goa have set them in the right rhythm and Habas wouldn’t want to lose out on this form, especially when playing at home, despite this being the third game that they will play in a week.

NorthEast United FC

The duo of Juric and Nestor Albiach joined hands to unlock a neatly organised East Bengal FC defence in the last game and they will step into this match with similar objectives. Impressively, NEUFC boast of a laudable goal-scoring record against MBSG already, having found the back of the at least once in each of their previous eight fixtures.

It is their longest such active streak against any team in the league. The victory against the Red & Gold Brigade was essential for their playoffs aspirations, considering that it brought curtains to their eight-game unbeaten streak in the ISL – in a period where they had seen five draws and three losses. A prospective win against the Mariners will help them secure consecutive wins in the ISL for the first time since January 2021, and Benali will desire such a run of his team to boost their form ahead of the final leg of the league campaign.

Key Players

Manvir Singh (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

Manvir Singh has been delivering consistent outputs in the frontline this season. His movements in the final third have been sharp, quick, and decisive. Manvir has been delivering important passes, mainly squaring up assists for forwards like Petratos and Jason Cummings. He has netted twice and notched three assists across 11 appearances in the ISL.

Manvir has created 15 goal-scoring opportunities, averaging 26 passes per game at an accuracy of 79%. He has won 15 aerial duels and 61.53% of his shots in the league have been hit on target. The winger will be eyeing making an impact in the forthcoming match, considering that there will be spaces open in the NEUFC backline if they take the attack to the opposition.

Tomi Juric (NorthEast United FC)

The Australian attacker has brought in newfound dynamism to NEUFC’s offensive endeavours. He has a formidable presence upfront and is dominant aerially too. Interestingly, he is deceptively quick on his feet and can turn swiftly in close spaces ensuring that he opens up newer ways for his teammates to put different sets of deliveries inside the box.

His two goals against East Bengal FC emanated quality and he visibly limited his role in and around the penalty box, averaging only seven passes per game, but ensuring that he was efficient and on target from positions that promised that the Highlanders could move ahead in the game. 66.66% of his shots have landed on target, and the team will be banking on similar consistency upfront at the home of the Mariners.

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Head-to-Head

Played – 9

Mohun Bagan Super Giant – 6

NorthEast United FC – 2

Draws – 1

Trivia: NorthEast United FC is the only team yet to have a substitute score for them this season.

Team Talk

“We have the same squad as the last match. The objective is that we want to get three points. It depends on the opposition as well but our approach is to be positive,” Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas said in the pre-match press conference.

“My strategy is to make sure we do the best that we can. As I said, we are playing against a dinosaur! We need to be smart in our game and try to do the best we can,” NEUFC head coach Juan Pedro Benali mentioned ahead of the game.

ISL Fantasy

Dimitrios Petratos (10.8cr)

Scored the winner against FC Goa

Manvir Singh (6.1cr)

Five goal contributions in ISL 2023-24

Nestor Albiach (4.6cr)

Creates and converts goal-scoring chances for NEUFC

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Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.