Bengaluru FC has been the best team in the league so far. Remaining unbeaten in their eight matches this season – winning seven of them, including six on the trot – they will be the team to beat when hosts NorthEast United FC will take the field at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Wednesday.
NorthEast United FC coach Eelco Schattorie will be doubly motivated to end Bengaluru’s unbeaten run. The Highlander has not exactly been in red-hot form this season, particularly at home. They have registered a single win in their four matches on home soil but Schattorie will hope they can get a positive result as they attempt to break the 20-point mark at the start of the second leg.
It will not be easy for the team, particularly with matches coming in thick and fast.
“I think Bengaluru has an advantage here (because of the fixtures). But they don’t have their best player (Miku) available, so I think that’s a disadvantage. But they have shown that they can win games even without him. They have conceded just six goals so far so breaking them open will be difficult,” said Schattorie, who will bank upon star striker and joint leader for the Golden Boot, Bartholomew Ogbeche, to deliver the goods.
In the midfield, Jose Leudo and Rowllin Borges will have to shoulder additional responsibility as they come up against a solid midfield pivot consisting of Dimas Delgado and Erik Paartalu.
Bengaluru has maintained a 100 per cent record on the road, winning each of their four away games. Despite the continued absence of Miku, who has been a vital cog in their team, the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh and others have stepped up to the challenge.
Bengaluru coach Carles Cuadrat will be pleased with the collective effort of his squad in front of goal. Players such as Rahul Bheke and Nishu Kumar have contributed with a goal or two as Bengaluru continues their march into the play-offs.
“NorthEast United FC has done really well this season. From all their games that I’ve watched this season, I can see that there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes. They have been working hard and you can also see that they have done well with their scouting. They have brought in some good players and you can see that the club is growing,” said Cuadrat.
Bengaluru has looked susceptible to pressure outside their fortress as they have conceded at least a goal in their last three away games. Schattorie would have done his homework and now it’s over to his boys to do the needful.