An Avram Grant led NorthEast United will be looking to build on their win last time out when they face ATK who really do seem to blow hot and cold. NorthEast will know that if they take all three points then they will leapfrog their opponents and move to eighth in the table whereas if the away side take the glory, they’ll jump two places to sixth. Let’s take a look at what is in store…
Last time out…
NorthEast United ended a run of four straight losses as a solid rather than spectacular performance from the Highlanders saw them beat an out of sorts Goa side by two goals to one. NorthEast’s opener was a mixture of luck, which was long overdue and technique as Marcinho’s first touch was superb; Danilo put the ball into the danger zone, Marcinho’s first touch took it away from the defender and a combination of a deflection and both posts saw the shot beat Kattimani in the Goa goal, however, FC Goa responded in the best possible way. A nothing ball was played into the area and it was completely misjudged by the NorthEast back line meaning it fell nicely to Arana, who still had a lot of work to do, but he managed to put it beyond Paramba, who really should have done better.
From that point onwards in the first half, it was all FC Goa and they really should have done better with the pressure, but due to a combination of bad finishing and good defending, the scores were level at halftime. I’m not sure what the new coaching partnership of Avram Grant and Eelco Schattorie said to NorthEast at the interval, but it certainly worked as Marcinho played in Seminlen who coolly chipped Kattimani to put the Highlanders 2-1 up with only seven minutes played in the second half. Some astute defending from NorthEast from then on ensured they took their tally for the season to seven points and it gave the table a slightly different outlook as they pulled away from Delhi at the bottom of the table.
It was a case of might have been for ATK as they suffered a narrow victory at the hands of ISL new boys Bengaluru. In many respects, the two teams were evenly matched throughout the duration of the game and it is no surprise that it was a moment of magic that ended up separating the two sides. Teddy Sheringham decided to leave Ryan Taylor on the bench which I’m still attempting to comprehend now but you live and learn, I think it’s safe to say he won’t be leaving him out the starting XI again.
Albert Roca’s side started the stronger of the two as Miku, Juanan and Paartalu all had good chances for Bengaluru, however, it’s not to be said that ATK didn’t look dangerous on the counter and if Rupert had his shooting boots laced up properly ATK would have taken the lead. Chhetri’s goal was fantastic, although Sheringham will be disappointed as it came about as it was a misplaced pass which saw Chhetri pick the ball up thirty yards out and the rest was all about Chhetri as he picked his spot in the top corner and found it. For all of their trying in the second half, ATK couldn’t find that equaliser which would have made all the difference and meant that they are still miles off the pace.
The press conferences…
NorthEast assistant coach, Eelco Schattorie took the pre-match conference, the Dutchman was asked about Robbie Keane’s injury, but he was not interested in the opposition:
“We have to focus on our own team and try to get out of the situation where we were in. We have to be together and work together.”
He also didn’t hold back when asked about the most important things for NorthEast:
“You have to have a good defensive organisation. Scoring goals are also important but that depends on how many quality players you have on the team who can score goals. We are working on it.”
Eelco closed off by saying he knows what he likes, but is also very realistic:
“We need to improve. I like to play attacking football. You see teams like Goa or Bengaluru who like to play attacking football. It is difficult for us to reach that level. For us, we have to stay together and hopefully we get results from now on.”
Sheringham also handed media duties to his assistant as Bastab Roy addressed the press before the game, he was keeping his cards close to his chest:
“Everybody needs to win their matches. So we have some planning but cannot disclose it here,”
Roy was very clear about the importance of the match, also:
“The table is very unpredictable. If we can win two or three games in a row we can achieve it (top-four). It’s a must win, do or die game for us.”
The Indian coach closed with:
“Only hard work [will help us improve]. That is what is in our hands. Chances and luck factor are not in our hands. In football, you have to score a goal and try not to concede. That is what we work on.”
The game itself…
The defending ISL Champions (ATK) will be without star man Robbie Keane after he apparently picked up an injury in their loss at Bengaluru. Now, I should just accept he’s injured and move on but with the transfer speculation surrounding him and no specific mention of what the injury actually is, one does have to wonder. With the Irishman not in the squad, it doesn’t look too good as ATK have only scored twice in their last three games and who got both of those? Robbie Keane. To be fair, from their five games on the road so far this season, they’ve had an average of 5.4 shots on target per game, so if they can get something similar to that later on today then they could be in luck. Time will tell.
Both teams need the win tonight, there’s no two ways about it. Schattorie knows that his and Avram’s side are limited when it comes to playing with flair and what have you but believe me, they would have spent a lot of time analysing what ATK do in the final third and they’ll be set up in the best possible way to combat them. One of the areas that they have to be more prolific from are corners because the Highlanders average 6.25 corners a game from their four home games this season, yet, they’ll be wasteful more times than not.
If you combine the two teams together, there’s been ten goals scored and twenty-two conceded in sixteen games, so whilst neither team are that good in front of goal, a defensive error could make all the difference.
Ones to watch…
Danilo – One of two Brazilians in the NorthEast squad who has a point to prove as him and Marcinho are the two players that NorthEast turn to for flair. He assisted his fellow countryman for the opening goal last time out and whilst Marcinho is perhaps the more obvious one to watch, I’ve opted for the ‘lesser-feared’ of the two. There is no doubt about that and his link-up play with Marcinho will be crucial if they are to make a late surge for the playoffs, which as to start with three points today.
Ryan Taylor – You can’t look past him as the one to watch, especially with Robbie Keane not in the squad. ATK look a completely different team with him in the side and it’s no shock that they got a lot better when he came off the bench against Bengaluru last time out and according the ISL official site he makes on average 55.75 passes a game, which of course would be a lot higher if he had played the full ninety minutes in the last game. His accuracy is also on point with seven out of ten of his passes finding its intended destination. Keep Taylor quiet and you’ll keep ATK quiet.
One more thing…
All things considered, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be back NorthEast United @ 5/4.