ISL 2017: NorthEast United vs Chennaiyin Match Preview

NorthEast United FC

It’s probably ever so slightly too early to start using the term ‘must-win’ but that’s almost where NorthEast are at now. A point leaves them eight points off the playoffs, a loss leaves them nine; on the other hand, a win leaves them six points which still isn’t the best of situations but it’s certainly better than the other scenarios. Chennaiyin are in a situation which is almost the opposite as they’ve got a four-point cushion from third, with a win they’ll go top but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter for them. Let’s get down to business.

Last time out…

NorthEast’s bubble burst as ATK came away with all three points in what was a very close encounter. Avram Grant’s side defended admirably throughout but a moment of magic decided the game. Arguably, the Highlanders had the better of the opportunities in the first half as Danilo had a shot well saved in what was a half which was a void of many clear-cut chances. Zequinha fired over with ATK’s best chance, but to call it the best chance sort of sums up how it played out.

Both teams threw caution to the wind after the break as a draw wasn’t really of much use to either of them. Danilo was at it again but once more, he couldn’t get past Majumder in the ATK goal and soon after the ball was down the other end, however, a bad miss from a free header and a strong save from Paramba kept the score at 0-0. That was until Zequinha volleyed one in from the edge of the box. We could argue all day about the best keeper in the world, but whatever conclusion we come to, I can safely say even he wouldn’t have saved it, it was that good. The ball broke to him after NorthEast could only half clear Robin’s attempt and the rest, is history. ATK moved onto twelve points, NorthEast remained on seven.

John Gregory’s Chennaiyin got a late winner in their match against Pune City and it was a game that they thoroughly deserved to win. Despite this, Pune will be the ones who will look back on the opening twenty minutes and know that they should have made their spell of dominance pay. Pune squandered a one on one which was then cleared, Ashique should have scored, Diego hit the underside of the bar and that wasn’t even half of it. The match pendulum went back in favour of Chennaiyin as they were awarded a penalty after a daft tackle from Adil Khan on Gregory Nelson gave Rene Mihelic the chance to convert from the spot. Unfortunately, it was not a chance he could take as Kaith kept the Slovenian’s spot-kick out.

The two halves couldn’t have really been much different if we tried, to be honest. Chennaiyin restricted Pune to only one attempt on target in a second-half performance that was duly rewarded with a goal in the final ten minutes. Mihelic, who missed the penalty, was withdrawn for Augusto who made sure he staked his claim for a place in the starting eleven with the assist. A clever ball out wide was brought in by Nelson who finished with a deft touch to send Chennaiyin top of the table. They were only replaced at the top last night as Bengaluru defeated Mumbai.

Previous encounter…

Chennaiyin comfortably beat NorthEast United earlier this season, 3-0 being the score when the referee blew his final whistle, however, it wasn’t a 3-0 game. It was one of those games where Joao de Deus’ side were having no luck whatsoever as they had more of the ball and more shots, but ultimately, Chennaiyin were more clinical in front of goal which is what made all the difference. Goals from Augusto and Rafi were supplemented by an own goal from Hakku as John Gregory’s side bounced back to an opening day defeat to Goa in the best possible way.

The game itself…

Something which indicates NorthEast’s lack on continuity is the fact that they haven’t got a single player that has played every minute of every game so far, but, Chennaiyin have four that have achieved that feat. They are: Calderon, Mailson, Jerry & Karanjit and with all of those being defensive players, it is no surprise that Chennaiyin find themselves where they do this season. Henrique Sereno would also have that feather in his cap, but suspension prevented him from playing against Delhi. Solid.

The Highlanders have only scored on four occasions this season, so, for them to make a charge for the playoffs, they need to start scoring goals and as Schattorie said in his exclusive chat with us; they play to win at home. We didn’t see that too much against ATK but I have a feeling there will be more attacking from NorthEast tonight, purely because they haven’t got a lot of choice.

Ones to watch…

Avram Grant – He holds the key. They aren’t scoring, they aren’t defending, they aren’t doing much of anything at present so it’s down to Avram to change that. He’s had a little bit more time on the training ground with them and he’ll be hoping for an improvement. He’ll only be too aware that he can’t commit men forward for fun because Chennaiyin will pick his team off, but he will need to find a happy medium for his team to stand any chance.

Rene Mihelic – Some of you will question my decision to put him here after he missed the penalty against Pune but he does a lot of work on the pitch and I firmly believe that if NorthEast can keep him quiet, then there’ll have a chance. It’s normally either Mihelic or Augusto who starts for the Chennai side and its thought he might opt with the latter this time around, but Rene is just as useful off the bench. His stats are impressive as well as he makes a pass every 2.2 minutes, makes 7.85 passes to the final third every ninety minutes and has a successful 75% rate when it comes to one-on-one dribbling. Tricky.

One more thing…

Back up to two houses with BTTS last night! All things considered, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing Chennaiyin @ 5/4. No house bet on this as last time I backed a team away at NorthEast, the home side won. Maybe it’s written in the stars.

About the Author

Jake Flock
Football and writing are my two biggest passions, so seems right to combine the pair, don't you think?