North East United FC, the only franchise who had not hitherto made it to the last four in the ISL, is going to host the table toppers Bengaluru FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium at Guwahati on Thursday in the first leg of a semi-final match. They will very much want to take lead before they head south for the return leg of the semis.
North East United FC
Eelco Schattorie’s team has relied on the goal scoring abilities of Bartholomew Ogbeche and Federico Gallego along with a strong defence for their progress to the playoffs. While Ogbeche is the joint second highest scorer in the league with Modou Sougou of Mumbai City, their defence has let in only 18 goals, the lowest for any team in the league this season. The Highlanders will be hoping that their two marksmen click in tomorrow’s game along with Rowlin Borges their midfielder. They will miss the services of Gurwinder Singh, their central defender, who was sent off in their last match against Kerala Blasters FC.
Bengaluru FC topped the league tables despite losing four matches in the last leg of the ISL after the winter break. Carles Cuadrat continued in the tradition of Albert Roca and has put together a good team with clinical finishers like Sunil Chhetri and the Venezuelan Miku. Xisco Hernandez and Udanta Singh have also contributed to the goal scoring effort immensely. Erik Paartalu has confirmed that he will not be available this season but Bengaluru has roped in Alex Barrera in his place. Cuadrat will be looking to take a lead in the first leg of the semi-final itself after fielding a second-string side in their last league match against Jamshedpur FC and getting thrashed 5-1.
Head to head
As Bengaluru FC joined the ISL only in 2017-18 season, the two teams have played against each other only four times. North East United have lost three of the matches to Bengaluru FC while managing to draw one.
Current form of the two teams
North East United have three draws, two wins and a loss in their last three matches. Their last win came against Mumbai City FC which is another of the finalist while they have drawn two games with two teams who finished in the bottom half of the table. Bengaluru FC has three losses and two wins in their last six games. Their latest loss came against Jamshedpur FC when Cuadrat chose to try his bench strength and rested the regular players.
Both teams have finished in the top four of the league table and making a prediction becomes difficult. Bengaluru FC, despite their poor form of late, has a good attack and are capable of piercing the North East Utd defence. North East Utd will not be found wanting for scoring goals either. I would, however, back Bengaluru FC to win the contest.
Score: North East Utd FC 1:2 Bengaluru FC