Kerala Blasters vs NorthEast United: Preview and Prediction
The final fixture of the 2022-23 Indian Super League Matchday 17 sets the stage for a battle where both combatants are craving a breakthrough. It is the battle between two clubs that are part of the ISL roster from the inaugural edition but are yet to get their hands on the prestigious trophy.
It is high time for Ivan Vukonamovic and his boys to take a wake-up call before it’s too late for them to make it to the Top 3. They have been already overtaken by the rivals Goa and it won’t take long for ATK Mohun Bagan and Odisha to track back if they continue the winless run.
The Tuskers are currently seated in the fourth position in the points table with 25 points, only a solitary point less than the Gaurs.
Despite making a change in the coaching staff or squad overhaul, the Guwahati-based outfit has placed every trump card out of its pocket. However, the circumstances for NorthEast United remain in a devastated state as they are still standing in the bottom-most position having fetched only four points from 15 games.
The Tuskers who were once seated in the third position firmly are now struggling with their form after recently losing two consecutive games. Two losses in two away fixtures have shaken down the confidence of the Yellow and Blues who are now battling to stay in the Top 4. In the previous match, they faced Goan at their fortress Fatorda and got hammered by Gaurs on a final scoreline of 3-1.
On the other hand, NorthEast United is on track to having yet another forgettable season as they have registered only a single win in the 2022-23 ISL to date. The Highlanders travelled all the way to the Western part of the country to summon Mumbai City but couldn’t manage to put up a strong fight against the Maharashtrian giants. The table-toppers netted four goals against the visitors who played the entire second half down to 10 men at Mumbai Football Arena.
Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United have a similarity in them that both of them are blessed with passionate supporters despite not achieving ISL glory yet. And the rivalry between these two combatants has always been intense right from the first-ever face-off which was also the second match of the inaugural season.
The head-to-head record of 17 encounters stands in the favor of the Kochi-based outfit by 7-4 while six chapters of this rivalry have been consummated on neutral scorelines.
The most recent face-off between them was also won by the Tuskers who distressed the home crowd of Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium with a 3-0 triumph. The Kerala-based club dominated the hosts with a tiny lead of 1-0 after Dimitrios Diamantakos’ 55th-minute strike for the majority of the play. Then Sahal Abdul Samad came off the substitute bench in the 65th minute and netted a brace in the final six minutes to adorn the triumph.
The Blasters who have such a dominant record couldn’t replicate it the last time they hosted the Highlanders at their home ground. The scoreline remained equivalent by 1-1 at the full-time, however, none of the goals came from field play and both of them resulted from penalty kicks.
The deadlock was broken by the star Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche for the Tuskers while NEU’s Ghanaian marquee player Asamoah Gyan struck the equalizing goal in the 50th minute.
The Guwahati-based outfit recently announced the arrival of former I-League-winning Mohun Bagan alumni Joseba Beitia who has already started training with the roster. The Spanish attacking midfielder is expected to make his debut in Highlanders’ colors replacing the suspended Wilmar Jordan Gil in the starting XI.
Another player who is likely to be included in the Highlanders’ line-up is Emil Benny as Pragyan Gogoi may make way for the Wayanad-born midfielder.
The Uruguayan playmaker Adrian Luna was handed over the captain’s armband of the Blasters as the first-choice skipper Jessel Carneiro lost his place in the starting XI. The gaffer Ivan Vukonamovic made a surprising move of playing a new pair of full-backs in the previous game which turned out to be a disastrous one. The Croatian central defender Marko Leskovic will be out for yet another game owing to his injury while Rahul KP may make a comeback to the matchday squad.
Predicted Starting XIs
Kerala Blasters (4-4-2): Prabhsukhan Singh Gill; Sandeep Singh, Victor Mongil, Hormipam Ruivah, Nishu Kumar; Saurav Mandal, Jeakson Singh, Ivan Kalyuzhnyi, Sahal Abdul Samad; Adrian Luna, Dimitrios Diamantakos
NorthEast United (4-3-3): Mirshad Michu; Alex Saji, Aaron Evans, Gaurav Bora, Hira Mondal; Emil Benny, Kule Mbombo, Joseba Beitia; Rochharzela, Romain Philippoteaux, Jithin MS
Defeating the Blasters in front of a packed Manjappada crowd has always been considered a tough task for any visiting side. Taking other aspects such as the head-to-head record, points table, and the result of the last encounter into account, Kerala Blasters stands with brighter chances to win this forthcoming contest. However, it is going to be very interesting to see whether the newly arrived Highlanders are able to change their fortunes or not.