NorthEast United FC has been handed a tough start to the Indian Super League season with the opening game against defending champions Bengaluru FC away from home on October 21.
It is the same team who vanquished them in the play-offs, at a time when many believed they had done enough and could go far.
Coach Robert Jarni, however, is confident of a winning start at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru on Monday.
“Bengaluru FC has made some changes from last season. Also, we have a different coach and some new players. This will be a different game. We believe that we can do something good against them. We are confident and we will try to bring the three points,” the former Real Madrid wing-back said.
The former Croatian international who took over from Eelco Schattorie also felt his side might have a slight advantage since most of Bengaluru’s key Indian players (Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan and Rahul Bheke) were away with the Indian national team for a while and might not have had a chance to tune into Carles Cuadrat’s team’s preparations.
“Yes, it will be a little advantage for us. As a coach, you want to have the full squad for training. But they could not have that because of the international break. But they have good players who know the coach and they are playing together from last season. It might help a little, but it is definitely not going to make a big difference,” Jarni said.
The 50-year-old went on to concede that his team has a few new players, including high-profile signing Asamoah Gyan and they need a bit of time before they adapt to his philosophy.
“The team is still young and I am still trying to influence my philosophy on them. This is my first season with this team. There are new players, so it is going to be difficult and we need time.
“We are working every day to get better. Only hard work and sweat can help you reach there. It is not only Asamoah who is happy, but everyone,” he said.
Jarni has the luxury of working with a completely fit squad with nobody missing through injury. He is, however, banking on a few exciting players in his team to deliver against Bengaluru.
“There are few interesting players who are young, but I am not going to talk about individuals as we are a single unit. We are well prepared. It is the first game and you do not know how much progress your opponents have made. We are prepared for a win and now let’s see what happens on the match-day.”