Bengaluru vs NorthEast United: Preview and Prediction
Known for achieving incredible success in a very short span, Bengaluru had an uncharacteristically horrific run in the 2019-20 season of the Indian Super League. The Blues had to settle for the seventh spot, which happened to be the worst finish in the club’s history. The Karnataka-based team will now look to get back to their usual rhythm under the tutelage of new manager Marco Pezzaiouli.
On the contrary, NorthEast United will be looking to build on a fantastic last season, which saw them finishing in third place, before eventually getting knocked out in the playoffs. Under Khalid Jamil, the only Indian manager in ISL 2021-22, the Highlanders will aim to not only replicate last season’s form but also improve on it.
How have they done so far?
Going into their fifth season in the ISL, Bengaluru has been one of the most consistent teams in India. In their very first ISL campaign, the Blues finished top of the table in the league stage but eventually lost to Chennaiyin in the final. However, they showed tremendous resolve to return with the same hunger and zeal to top the league phase again in the 2018-19 ISL season, but this time around, they also went on to lift the trophy by beating Goa in the final.
Even in the 2019-20 ISL season, Bengaluru finished third and was a force to reckon with against most of the formidable teams in the league. For one reason or another, things went south last season and they managed to win only five matches, amassing a meager 22 points.
The story is pretty different for NorthEast United, as they have reached the playoffs only twice. Last season was probably their best ever campaign, not only because of where they finished at the table but also for the fearless and attacking brand of football they played. The midseason sacking of Gerard Nus might have left a lot of people scratching their heads at the time, but from what we have seen so far, Jamil’s appointment has been a masterstroke by the Highlanders’ management.
Head to Head Record
Bengaluru faced NorthEast United twice last season, and on both occasions, spoils were shared. The first meeting of the last campaign ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw. Luis Machado scored a brace for the Highlanders, while Juanan and Udanta Singh were on the score-sheet for the Blues. In the return leg, Machado found the back of the net once again, but a second-half strike from Rahul Bheke earned Bengaluru a point.
In terms of overall head-to-head records, these two teams have crossed paths on ten occasions. Including the two draws last season, a total of four matches have not yielded a winner with Bengaluru winning five games. NorthEast United got the better of the 2018-19 ISL champions on a solitary occasion.
In a season of transition, Pezzaiouli will be working with a new-look roster. Apart from Cleiton Silva, Bengaluru’s entire foreign contingent is new to Indian football. It will be important for midfielders like Suresh Singh and Bruno Ramires to control the tempo in the midfield, while a lot will also depend on Brazilian defender Alan Costa, who is likely to marshal the Blues’ back four along with new signing Sarthak Golui and Pratik Chaudhari. Sunil Chhetri is expected to find himself in the company of Cleiton Silva and Prince Ibara upfront.
Unlike his opponent, Jamil will have his core group intact, while he also has added some experienced players to the mix. An ISL winner with Mumbai City, Hernan Santana has joined the Highlanders and is likely to be deployed in the middle of the park along with midfield enforcer Khassa Camara. Bengaluru’s nemesis, Luis Machado will be missed sorely in the fixture but Jamil might look up to VP Suhair for his exploits upfront alongside Deshorn Brown.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Bengaluru (4-3-3): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Sarthak Golui, Pratik Chaudhuri, Alan Costa, Ajith Kumar; Jayesh Rane, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Bruno Ramires; Cleiton Silva, Prince Ibara, Sunil Chhetri.
NorthEast United (4-1-4-1): Subhashish Roy Chowdhury; Provat Lakra, Mashoor Shareef, Hernan Santana, Gurjinder Kumar; Khassa Camara; VP Suhair, Imran Khan, Federico Gallego, Rochharzela; Deshorn Brown.
Matches between NorthEast United and Bengaluru have been very feisty off late, especially last season, where both games went right down the wire. With this match being the season-opener for both clubs and hesitancy likely to play its part, a 1-1 draw is most likely to be on the cards come Saturday night.