NorthEast United host FC Pune City at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium as they look to recapture their early season form.
NorthEast United FC created a flutter with a brilliant start to the campaign. 10 points from the first 5 games and Nelo Vingada’s team was flying high towards the top end of the table. A lot has since gone wrong for John Abraham’s franchise. The outfit that amassed 3 wins and just 1 defeat from the first 5 matches, has gone on to lose 4 from the next 5, taking just 1 point out of a maximum fifteen.
Vingada, though, has not lost hope of snatching a qualification place. The side has two home games left, one of which is today against an FC Pune City side that has really picked up pace in the recent days and find themselves back from the bottom into the top 4.
After a torrid start to the season that saw the club placed towards the bottom end of the table with just 6 points from the first 7 games, 9 points from the last 4 fixtures have catapulted Antonio Habas’s side out from obscurity into the top four. A run that was capped off by a thrilling 4-3 win over free-scoring Delhi Dynamos and there seems to be a breath of fresh and positive air around the club.
Habas, though, is not taking anything for granted and is looking to take one game at a time as they aim for qualification into the knockout phases.
North East United have some injury concerns to tackle with the defensive trio of Nirmal Chhetri, Gustavo Lazaretti and Robin Gurung declared unfit for the game. Their absence could lead to a return for Didier Zokora at the back while the returning Salam Ranjan Singh is yet to make an appearance and could be in line to feature against the Pune side.
Emiliano Alfaro’s poor form could push the player down the order, which could give Sasha Aneff a sniff in into the starting eleven. The return of Nicolas Velez and Romaric prompted a better performance against Atletico De Kolkata, where the Highlanders earned a point and it also had a visibly positive impact on the performance of Katsumi Yusa and Rowllin Borges.
FC Pune City, on the other hand, would be satisfied with the performances from the current lineup and Antonio Habas is unlikely to change or chop too much. However, Rahul Bheke’s absence had a visible impact on their performance and even though his replacement, Dharmaraj Ravanan was industrious on the evening, his lack of attacking impetus could see Bheke return to the lineup.
Elsewhere, the former Atletico De Kolkata boss has to decide between Arata Izumi and Sanju Pradhan to deploy on the wing. No other changes are likely to be made by Antonio Habas, who would be delighted with the form of his star keeper, Edel Bete and the central defensive duo of Gouramangi Singh and Eduardo Ferreira.
NorthEast United FC (4-2-3-1): Subrata Paul; , Reagan Singh, Zokora, Mailson, Shouvik Ghosh; Borges, N’Dri; Seityasen, Yusa, Velez; Alfaro
FC Pune City (4-2-3-1): Edel; Bheke, Ferreira, Gouramangi, Narayan Das; Lucca, Sissoko; N’Doye, Lyngdoh, Izumi; Anibal
NorthEast United 2 – 4 FC Pune City
NorthEast United seems to be struggling and with 3 of their 4 defenders declared unfit, FC Pune City could be set to pile on more misery. Anibal seems to be in sensational form and could be set for another goal blitz while the onus will be on Alfaro to provide the goals for Vingada’s men.
It could very well be a battle of two attacks and the Highlanders may struggle to cope with the defence of FC Pune City and the form of their keeper Edel Bete. It looks set to be another win for FC Pune City on Tuesday at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium.