We need to keep going: NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali
NorthEast United FC will aim to extend their unbeaten streak to five games but face a tough test against Odisha FC, who have yet to be defeated at home this season.
NorthEast United FC's head coach, Juan Pedro Benali, is gearing up for a challenging away match as his team faces Odisha FC in Matchweek 6 of the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.
The Highlanders have secured just two victories in their first five matches of this season but have displayed resilience, remaining undefeated in their last four games following their initial loss to Mumbai City FC. NorthEast United FC will aim to extend their unbeaten streak to five games but face a tough test against Odisha FC, who have yet to be defeated at home this season. Odisha FC have triumphed in two out of their three games at the Kalinga Stadium, including a remarkable comeback win against Bengaluru FC in their recent match.
Benali expressed admiration for Odisha FC, especially highlighting their impressive comeback against Bengaluru FC, where they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to secure all three points. He also emphasised the importance of staying persistent.
"It's (Odisha FC) a great team with great players, with a good coach. They played against a good team (Bengaluru FC) also. This is football. If you don't kill totally, you get killed. It's a big lesson for us, that's been, we need to keep going. If we score, we need to keep going. If they score, we need to keep going. This is the lesson we take from their game or from our (previous) game," Benali said in the pre-match press conference.
NorthEast United FC have played two away matches this season, against Punjab FC and Kerala Blasters FC, but dropped points in both matches after taking the lead. When asked about this, Benali displayed great optimism, asserting that he doesn't view it as lost points.
He explained, "I don't think we drop points. It's the contrary. We got a point. We were playing away. We were playing against two difficult teams, especially Punjab FC. It was a game that they needed to take a point because if not, they would be in big trouble. I say it, I will say, and I say it again, the field in Delhi, it's a very, very difficult field to play. It's not easy. It's very hard. And Kerala, what do I say about Kerala? I mean it was a great point, very difficult for other teams to take a point (at that venue)."
Benali also provided an update on forward Manvir Singh's fitness and anticipates his return after the break. "Manvir is in the process of rehab now. He started to work on the field. We hope now, in the break he will be working more, touching the ball, and I think he will be in the group after the break," he said.
Accompanying Benali in the press conference was Spanish defender Michel Zabaco, who has been a pivotal player for NorthEast United FC. He expressed his delight at scoring his first goal this season in the ISL against Jamshedpur FC.
"I think that we played a good game. We pushed since the first minute. They scored (against) us first. But we continued and we were patient. I think that we played the game with (more of) the ball. We had more chances. And I was lucky to score my first goal," Zabaco expressed.