Football

NEUFC looks to go back with a win

Gearing up: NorthEast United FC, which has blown hot and cold so far, would be keen to end its away schedule with a win over home team Chennaiyin FC. Photo: R. Ragu

Gearing up: NorthEast United FC, which has blown hot and cold so far, would be keen to end its away schedule with a win over home team Chennaiyin FC. Photo: R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

For NorthEast United FC, Friday’s game against Chennaiyin FC will mark the culmination of a hectic away schedule. It will be the team’s fourth game on the road. It has won, drawn and lost a game each during this period.

 A positive result at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will go some way in assuaging fears about a side which has blown hot and cold so far.

 “We are looking forward to it,” said manager Rickie Herbert. “We enjoy being on the road. These players have played together in the I-League. Now it’s the ISL. Different atmosphere, bigger stadiums, bigger crowds… It’s a learning curve.”

 Going into the match, of particular concern for the fifth-placed Highlanders will be their goal-scoring ability and fatigue due to their high-pressing approach. It has scored only four goals in six matches and after having given an impressive account of its style of play against the Delhi Dynamos, it came a cropper against FC Pune City, losing 1-0.

 “We have also conceded just four (goals),” said Herbert. “So we have stayed competitive. Rehenesh has been a revelation in the goal. It’s a confidence thing for the strikers. We have created chances but haven’t been able to convert. So I hope it turns around.”

 On his team’s playing style Herbert said, “We are very good at it. I don’t see any problem. Probably we are the best passing side in the league. Against Pune it was just an off day when everybody was collectively a notch below their best.”

In Chennai, which, with a win could go top, it will be up against a team which has so far chosen to sit back and play on the counter. Elano and John Stiven Mendoza have moulded into a lethal partnership when playing long balls, but the lack of creativity and build-up play in the final third should be a worry. “They are fast and youthful. But we have done our preparations and would look to implement them,” said assistant coach Vivek Nagul. Some of those might be in the midfield area which Nagul said will see some changes.

 It remains to be seen if Marco Materazzi has the legs to start his third game in a row. Deep-lying playmaker Bojan Djordjic, who has a lingering shoulder problem and didn’t play in the previous match against Atletico de Kolkata, and N.P. Pradeep might see some action.

 Former Manchester United midfielder Eric Djemba Djemba, Chennai’s latest signing, is unlikely to feature having joined the team only on Wednesday.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 4:18:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/indian-super-league-neufc-looks-to-go-back-with-a-win/article6575632.ece

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