The stage is set for an exciting fixture in the Indian Super League as North East United FC take on two-time champions Chennaiyin FC. After a lacklustre performance against Bengaluru and a goalless draw with Kerala Blasters, the Highlanders will be looking to get their first win of the season. While a new look Chennaiyin FC has started the quest for their third title decently, winning 1-0 over Hyderabad FC.
North East United are yet to get their shape together as a team with some fresh faces in the squad. They weren’t able to retain their central anchoring midfielder for them last season, Lalengmawia. It is always hard to replace a good quality player who fits into the tactics so well. Khassa Camara will be the one who dictates the play, while new addition Mathius Coureur hoping to get into a fine run of goalscoring form along with Deshorn Brown.
On the other hand, Chennaiyin FC have started their league campaign on a winning note beating Hyderabad FC courtesy of a Vladimir Koman penalty. Though they showed some fragility at the back, the team was able to keep their shape intact. The extensive pre-season has enabled them to get a good understanding within their team. Their focus will be on being efficient in attack.
Rafael Crivellaro will miss out on the match as he will need at least four weeks for recovering from a muscle injury.
On the other hand, Federico Gallego is fit and may feature in the team. He is expected to make his first appearance of the season.
3 Indian players to watch out for
The winger could have a good season if things go well with Chennaiyin FC. Last year, the Mizo winger had had a quiet campaign but still scored four goals and added an assist to his name. With the improvements in midfield, Chhangte could have more freedom and involvement through the wings. The versatility of Mirlan Murzaev to play anywhere in the front line will enable Chhangte to switch sides constantly.
Taking additional responsibility as a captain, Anirudh Thapa starts with a lot of expectations this season. He forms an essential partnership with Ariel Borysiuk down the middle of the park. Coach Bandovic has also spoken about improving Thapa on the attacking side. Much is expected from the central midfielder as he will also be keen on cementing his place in the national team.
The man from Kerala is looking to continue the same good run of form he had last season. It’s not a pretty bad start for him this time, bagging an assist in the first game of the season. His work rate will be crucial for Northeast United, especially during counterattacks.
3 Foreign players to watch out for
The Montenegrin centre back gave a good account of himself in the first match, helping the team to a clean sheet. In addition to experienced Indian defenders, a solid foreign centre back is possibly the best possible lineup in the defence for CFC. Slavko made seven interceptions and six clearances with a 100% long ball accuracy. He is one of the foreigners to watch out for throughout the season and could turn out to be an excellent signing for Chennaiyin FC.
The talisman of North East United could play an essential role for the team. There is already competition from Mathias Coreur, but that will only improve the morale of the team. Gallego has scored nine goals and has made 14 assists in his ISL career and his presence will be a mental boost for the team.
The ISL winner with Mumbai City FC has switched colours, but his performance remains unchanged. His versatility of playing as a centre back apart from his natural position of central midfield would come in handy for North East United. He was used to partner Khassa Camara in the midfield in the first match, while he played as a centre back in the next where they kept a clean sheet.
Predicted starting lineup
Head to head
North East United lead with six wins out of the 14 matches between the two sides, while five have ended draws. Chennaiyin won the remaining three games. The last encounter between these two was in February 2021, which ended in a high scoring 3-3 stalemate.
On paper, Chennaiyin FC are the favourites to win the match. The recent form also suggests that the stability in the team is lacking with North East United. It might take a few more games to show their full potential as a team. We could be seeing goals on both sides, but Chennaiyin FC is expected to get the three points.
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