FC Pune City
Indira Gandhi Stadium, Guwahati
2nd December, 2015, 1900 IST
It’s a simple equation for both North East United FC and FC Pune City, as they face each other at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Guwahati on Wednesday — they must win it to have a chance to qualify for the semifinal playoffs.
Three of the four spots for the semi finals have already been booked by Atletico de Kolkata, FC Goa and the Delhi Dynamos. However the last spot still remains wide-open in a three-way fight between Chennaiyin FC, FC Pune City, and North East United FC.
Thus, this clash between the two teams is set to be more like a knockout match than a league match, as a draw would not really help either side.
Team News & Tactical Brief
North East United FC
This is an absolute do-or-die situation for NEUFC, as this is their last match of the league campaign, and it is the last chance to get the three points on the board, and qualify for the semi finals. Interestingly, the neutral fans would be rooting for FC Pune City, as a victory for them would mean that Saturday’s match up between FC Pune City and Chennaiyin FC would effectively be a quarter final.
An NEUFC win would keep the Highlanders in the hunt though, they would incredibly need a favour from FC Pune City, whom they would be trying to knock out on Wednesday.
As this is an all-or-nothing match, NEUFC would be looking to field their strongest side, even though they played just three days back. Although a 4-3-3 worked well against the dangerous FC Goa, NEUFC look more dangerous with the 4-2-3-1, with either marquee player Simao Sabrosa or Victor Mendy in the No. 10 role.
Siam Hanghal has been a revelation for NEUFC this season, working tirelessly in midfield, and would retain his spot in the middle of the park alongside Bruno Arias. Meanwhile, coach Cesar Farias is set to go with his strongest centreback pairing of Argentine Carlos Lopez and Frenchman Cedric Hengbart, flanked by Khongjee and Raja.
Seityasen Singh has been good recently, and Farias has rewarded him by giving the place of Sanju Pradhan (right wing) on the starting XI. Diomansy Kamara has proved that he can virtually play anywhere in the top-four, and would take up his usual position on the left wing, often switching with Simao or striker Dadzie.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Rehenesh; Raja, Lopez, Hengbart, Khongjee; Hanghal, Arias; Kamara, Simao, Seityasen; Dadzie.
FC Pune City
The equation is not quite so complicated for FC Pune City. They need to win both their remaining matches to make it to the semi final playoffs.
The Stallions have been out of form after being on a winless run in their last six matches. This is something that they need to bring to an end on Wednesday. David Platt’s side have arguably been one of the best teams in the first half of the tournament. However, a dip in form has seen them fall from the top spot in the league to the sixth place.
To add to their woes, influential midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh is set to miss the game against the Highlanders after he picked up a one match suspension in the 4-1 defeat to Atletico de Kolkata. Didier Zokora is also on three yellow cards, and another booking in this match could mean that the Ivory Coast holding midfielder would miss out on playing against Chennaiyin FC in a potentially crucial encounter.
Platt is set to go with his favourite defensive combination of Ravanan and Roger Johnson in the middle, flanked by Nicky Shorey and Pritam Kotal, while Bailey replaces the suspended Lyngdoh, in an attacking 4-4-2.
A combination of the powerful Kalu Uche and the skillful Adrian Mutu would be looking to get on the scoresheet as Pune go looking for the first win in six matches.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Arindam; Shorey, Ravanan, Johnson, Kotal; Jackichand, Bailey, Zokora, Jairu; Uche, Mutu.
Players to watch out for
Nico Velez (Forward, North East United FC)
The Argentine, who has been a revelation this season when employed on the wings, has been an effective super sub for NorthEast United FC manager Cesar Farias. In what is presumed to be a tight game, Farias would be looking to deploy him down the left flank so as to cause a lot of problems to FC Pune City right back Kotal.
Adrian Mutu (Forward, FC Pune City)
The Romanian seems to have put his blackenedpast behind him, and has embraced the ISL well, after missing most of the earlier part of the tournament with an injury. However, Mutu has scored thrice in the last four matches, and he would be looking to bulge the net again in order to keep his team’s hopes alive.
North East United FC 3-2 FC Pune City
This is a bit of a difficult game to call, but the vociferous Guwahati support should give NEUFC the extra edge, to win this game, and keep their chances alive. Whether FC Pune City would do them the favour by beating Chennaiyin FC on Saturday, we have to wait and see.
Image Source: ISL Media Team