NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali was happy to be back at the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium in Guwahati as the Highlanders host Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday. 

NorthEast United FC are sixth in the table with eight points on the board. Both their wins so far this season have come in Guwahati and the fans will remember the last time the team were out on the field on their home patch. The Highlanders scored two stoppage-time goals to overturn a deficit and win the game and Benali hopes to see a similar atmosphere as the Blues come calling. 

“I hope to see our stadium full,” he said. 

“We want the fans to push us. When the fans are with us we are a great team,” he added. 

Mumbai City FC are the only team to win in Guwahati this season and it was only a narrow defeat for the home side on the evening who will be looking to make it three straight home wins against Bengaluru FC who are two places below the Highlanders. 

Benali though urged against reading too much from the points table and expects a difficult game. 

“We are playing against a very tough team. They have many players in the Indian national team, very good foreign players, great coach. It's a tough team to play against,” he said. 

“It will be very difficult for both teams and it will be a nice game,” he added. 

Benali also pleaded for patience from the supporters as he is just six ISL matches into his tenure and suggested that it will take some time for him to build a strong squad capable of challenging for top honours. 

“We are still babies. We are growing. We can't become a 100m runner in just five months. We need time. We are working, the players are working very hard,” he said. 

“The foreign players, before being good players are good people. They have integrated themselves very well in the group. The Indian players were also very hospitable to them. The foreign players feel at home,” he added, highlighting the good bond in his squad.

On being quizzed about the race for the playoffs, Benali feels it is too early to make any predictions. 

“We have only played six games. Any team that wins two games in a row is up and the one that loses two in a row is down. Till the last 3-4 games, nothing will be decided. You need to be as consistent as possible,” he said. 

Defender Tondonba Singh accompanied coach Benali in the pre-match press conference and stressed the need to improve with every match. 

“I am loving my time here. We are improving day by day. We have a great bond in the squad and are close to the foreign players as well,” he said. 

“The competition in ISL is tough but we will follow the coach's instructions and try to have a strong season,” he concluded.