Preview: NorthEast United FC, Bengaluru FC in search of crucial three points
NorthEast United FC look to bounce back when they take on Bengaluru FC in Matchweek 11 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24.
Bengaluru FC will host a struggling NorthEast United FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in a bid to get their second successive win under new head coach Gerard Zaragoza. The Blues started their new era under Zaragoza with a 1-0 victory against Jamshedpur FC, thanks to a penalty by Javi Hernandez. They now have a chance to gradually reinforce that result at their bastion against the Highlanders, who are on a five-game winless run at the moment with their last victory coming back in October against the Red Miners.
The Blues have a lot of corrections to make as to how they began this season. On the back of impressive outings in the previous campaign, which included making it to the finals of three competitions, Bengaluru FC must have set high standards for what they would have wanted to achieve this year.
Zaragoza has had ample time to get acquainted with the squad and to make an assessment of whether he has the appropriate profile of players at his disposal to make a change. Being a part of the club as an assistant coach in their title-winning 2018-19 season, he is well aware of the functioning of the outfit, and that familiarity should hold him in good stead in securing positive results straight away.
For the Highlanders, what started off as a promising season is quickly unfurling in a way that they would not have wanted. They are now in a long-drawn quest for a win and would hope to close out the year with the same, especially given the topsy-turvy ride they have endured at the start of this campaign. There are suggestions that they maximised their potential in the opening run of matches and head coach Juan Pedro Benali would be eager to prove the detractors wrong in this away fixture.
What’s at stake?
For Bengaluru FC, it is all about regaining momentum at the moment. They must be steadily adjusting to the plans laid out by Zaragoza, but simultaneously they do hold a dominating record over the Highlanders. The Blues have never lost at home against NorthEast United FC, winning four games and drawing once in their five encounters at the Kanteerava. They won their most recent such fixture by 1-0, whereas the two sides played out a 1-1 draw when they locked horns in Guwahati earlier this season.
Bengaluru FC must be slightly concerned that it took them a spot-kick to get past Jamshedpur FC at home in the previous game. The three points would have come in as a much-needed breather, but the tactician at helm now will know that a lot needs to be done to get this side back to where they want to be. All bases need to be covered with every department of the playing XI ticking the boxes consistently for them to really get a desirable result in the forthcoming fixture.
NorthEast United FC
The Highlanders embarked on this campaign on a positive note, having secured a final four finish in the Durand Cup prior to the ISL. These were baby steps for NorthEast United FC – a team that had won only once in their 20 league matches last season. Benali has got them better results, undoubtedly, but now it is time to overcome this challenging phase so that they do not succumb into a free fall with no point of return. To be fair, they are not the best of the travellers in the ISL.
NorthEast United FC has lost 35 away matches (home of the opposition) in the league, which is the highest amongst all teams. In fact, they are on a massive 21-game winless streak in away encounters at the moment, which opens a window of opportunity for Benali to set an unfortunate record straight and resurrect the campaign for his young and promising squad. They have come across Bengaluru FC, who are in a spot of bother themselves at this moment. If NorthEast United FC pounce upon the weaknesses of the home side and optimise their strengths, then a good result is there for the taking here.
Halicharan Narzary (Bengaluru FC)
The winger arrived at Bengaluru FC amidst high expectations after a successful stint with Hyderabad FC. The departure of Udanta Singh from Bengaluru FC demanded another proven Indian attacker to replace him, and the Blues seemed to have hit the jackpot with Narzary. However, with just one assist and no goals across 464 minutes in seven games, things do not appear to be too rosy for the player in question.
He has not been helped by playing in an inconsistent system, with three different men in Grayson, Renedy Singh, and Zaragoza having been in charge of Bengaluru FC in the ISL 2023-24 so far. Yet, Narzary will be eager to find his mojo back, ripping apart defensive units with his tearaway pace and then delivering decisive passes that make an impact in the proceedings in the final third. Can Zaragoza bring out the best from the seasoned campaigner?
Konsam Phalguni Singh (NorthEast United FC)
Konsam Phalguni Singh scored an absolute outside-of-the-box stunner to hand NorthEast United FC an early lead before they squandered that opportunity in their previous match against the Mohun Bagan Super Giant. Phalguni Singh has been one of the busier presences in the Highlanders’ frontline this season, scoring twice across 10 games and creating 13 goal-scoring opportunities with a 78% passing accuracy as well.
He has earned a foul on average per game and also recorded five blocks and six interceptions to put in a diligent defensive shift as well. Phalguni, 28, has shown that he has a powerful shot up his sleeves and his ability to unleash that from distance at any given point in the game should keep Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on his toes.
Played – 15
Bengaluru FC – 8
NorthEast United FC – 2
Draws – 5
Trivia: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has recorded a total of 34 saves in ISL 2023-24, the highest for any goalkeeper in the competition.
“It’s always a challenge when you change the coach. My expectation is to go day by day and week by week, and we continue like this. We won the first match and we were happy. We had a very nice week working together, and now it’s time tomorrow again to do the positive bits that we did in the last match,” Bengaluru FC head coach Gerard Zaragoza explained in the pre-match press conference.
“It’s a totally different team, coach, players, and approach. It’s going to be a difficult game. But, we know our job; we play our way, always to get the best result possible. I cannot comment on his (Zaragoza’s) style of play, it’s only been one game. But, we see there are some slight changes in the teams, in players, the approach is totally different. There are new ideas and fresh air, which is why it won’t be easy,” NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali said.
Sunil Chhetri (7.7cr)
Five goal contributions in ISL 2023-24
Javi Hernandez (10.2cr)
Two goals in the current ISL campaign
Phalguni Singh (5cr)
Scored from a wonderful strike in the previous match
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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 SD & HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam) & DD Bangla (Bengali). 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.