Mohun Bagan Super Giant will travel to Guwahati to face NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium at the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Friday, 15th December.

Dealing with a host of injury concerns, the Mariners drew 2-2 against Odisha FC at home in their last ISL fixture. They fielded a new-look side against Maziya S&RC and lost 1-0, the visitors will be keen to get a victory and recover their winning momentum after their five-match victorious streak was broken by the Juggernauts.

There were two major objectives for the Juan Ferrando-coached side heading into this season, which were getting to the top of the league table in the ISL and performing well in the AFC Cup. Both these campaigns have been like chalk and cheese for them thus far.

On the domestic front, they started off with five wins in a row, the best record after these numbers of games for any team in ISL history. At the AFC level, they could not finish within the top-two in a group comprising Odisha FC, which brought curtains down to that tournament. However, the latter can help them consolidate all of their resources at the league level, especially when they are riddled with unavailability of multiple players.

NorthEast United FC have drawn and been defeated twice each in their last four encounters. They are two points behind the sixth-placed Chennaiyin FC, who also have played a match more than the Highlanders. Stopping their season from derailing should be of utmost priority for Juan Pedro Benali at the moment, given that the competition is heating up in the middle of the table. Playing against a power-packed Mohun Bagan Super Giant unit is never easy, but they need to overcome tougher challenges to come out triumphant amidst intense competitiveness, don’t they?

What’s at stake?

NorthEast United FC

That NorthEast United FC had a forgettable run last season requires no second telling. However, their only victory in 20 matches in the previous campaign had come against Mohun Bagan Super Giant at this very venue on December 24, 2022. Wilmar Jordan Gil had scored a 69th winner, and the home team will be hoping for a repeat of that result this time around, especially given their recent outcomes.

The Highlanders have scored in each of their last seven games against the Mariners, and they are also on a four-game unbeaten run at home currently. They have ridden the support of their home fans incredibly well in this edition, and nothing could get them roaring more than an encouraging, impressive outing against the mighty Mohun Bagan Super Giant.

NorthEast United FC must be relieved that a 1-1 draw against Hyderabad FC did not make them fall into a succession of poor results after their 5-0 loss to East Bengal FC in Kolkata. Now, the time is to arrest this stagnating momentum and ensure that they start putting pressure back on the other sides.

Watch the Highlights from NEUFC’s last match here:

Mohun Bagan Super Giant

The Mariners can be high of confidence after coming back from two goals down to secure a point against the Juggernauts in the previous encounter. Armando Sadiku bagged a brace and that will reinforce the faith of Ferrando in his frontline. The Mohun Bagan Super Giant have not faced a loss in any of their last 12 ISL fixtures, and they even lifted the ISL 2022-23 trophy amidst this celebrated run.

Yes, they do have to work their way through several fitness concerns in the squad, but the depth and quality of their overall squad should make that task easier. Overall, the team should back themselves to take three points from this encounter, whilst simultaneously ensuring that they do not take NorthEast United FC lightly by any stretch of imagination.

The Highlanders have shown tremendous discipline and dynamism to put even the best of the opponents on the backfoot, and they will thrive by the familiarity that comes with playing on their home turf. For the Mariners, nothing less than the top spot will satiate their dreams for this season and hence it’s important they do not allow any slip-ups, redirecting all their focus into the ISL campaign.

Watch the Highlights from MBSG’s last match here:

Key Players

Gani Nigam (NorthEast United FC)

The midfielder has clocked 315 minutes across five appearances, bringing about an impressive balance between his offensive and defensive duties. He seemingly dons a transitional role in the line-up, chipping in at the back with necessary inputs whenever required but being unafraid to get into advanced goal-scoring positions and taking shots at goal. He is also creative with his passing range, often trying to bring out something additional from his sleeves to find breakthroughs past the opposition’s defence.

Nigam has created three goal-scoring chances and intercepted thrice too so far. A sustained run of games for him in the middle, along with some additional playing time could see more refined results from the player in the middle of the park. Benali will have to fall back on every resource possible to overcome the impressive strength of the Mohun Bagan Super Giant midfield, and Nigam could play a vital role in marking one of the key men from the visitors’ XI.

Dimitrios Petratos (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

The Australian has to shoulder extra responsibility in the absence of his teammates, and he hasn’t let them down so far. With two strikes and an assist in four ISL appearances, Petratos continues to be industrious upfront with a keen eye for a goal. He also netted thrice in four AFC Cup games, showing that he is one of the countable players who can replicate the riches of his talent on the continental stage too.

Petratos maintains an imposing presence near the opposition’s box, with his rapid pace, quick feet, and a firm shot making up all the elements of a top-notch striker.

One can never count him out of the game, and a two-striker system tends to often bring the best out of him. He interchanges roles brilliantly, dropping back to build up play and then pulling the trigger in the final third. Petratos is averaging 3.5 shots per game in this campaign, the highest such aggregate for any player.

He averages 32 passes per game, which is quite impressive given that he plays at the tip of the frontline. Petratos also creates 1.5 goal-scoring chances in every match in this ISL season, and these traits should be a cause of concern for the home team ahead of this highly-anticipated fixture.

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Played – 8

Mohun Bagan Super Giant – 5

NorthEast United FC – 2

Draws – 1

Trivia: Teams coached by Juan Ferrando have conceded 1.43 goals per game against NorthEast United FC during his stint in India.

Team Talk

“It’s a good team, a very good team, and any player can make the difference. We don’t look at the money (that Mohun Bagan Super Giant has spent). In the end, it’s 11 vs 11. The money makes a difference in the long-term, not so much in short-term. Sometimes, just because you have spent a lot of money doesn’t mean that you will win. That’s why we have the example of Paris Saint-Germain. We are a fighting team. We know what to do, what not to do, and we will see them on the pitch,” NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali said in the pre-match press conference.

 “It’s always important that we have all players available, so that we have a wide range of players to select from, to build our team in a better way, rather than getting restricted to certain players,” Mohun Bagan Super Giant assistant coach Clifford Miranda touched upon the importance of a full-strength squad in the build-up to this game.

ISL Fantasy

Dimitrios Petratos (11.3cr)

Constant goal-scoring threat from the Mohun Bagan Super Giant rank

Gani Nigam (4cr)

Can be a possible bargain pick amongst the midfielders

Vishal Kaith (5.2cr)

Dependable as ever between the sticks for the Mariners

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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.