NorthEast United v Kerala Blasters: Preview and Prediction

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Kerala Blasters are into the playoffs but injuries keep ravaging the team

Matchday 21 of the 2023-24 Indian Super League season will see NorthEast United take on Kerala Blasters at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. The two sides, who have both been on a miserable run of form, will be facing off on Saturday from 7:30 PM IST.

The home team comes into the clash being placed 11th on the table, with 20 points from 19 games. Incredibly, they still have a shot to make it to the final playoff spot which is currently occupied by Bengaluru who are on 22 points, having played a game more. 

Head coach Juan Pedro Benali will be absolutely desperate to ensure his side picks their first points in 3 games and give themselves a fighting chance to make it to the playoffs.

To achieve that, however, the Highlanders need to stop leaking goals. They currently have the third-worst goal difference in the league(-8), having shipped 32 goals so far. Despite their injuries, Kerala Blasters still have a formidable front line.

For the Kerala-based side, the second half of the season continues to pile miseries for them. Head coach Ivan Vukomanovic spoke about the clash against East Bengal that they were likely going to field an all-Indian side in their remaining 2 group games and that most accurately captures just how much the Manjappada has suffered lately. 

Having officially secured their spot for the playoffs with 30 points from 20 games, they actually do not have a lot to play for which could impact the way Ivan sets his team up as well. However, they have not kept a clean sheet in 11 games and counting, and it is something that has caused a lot of concern for Kerala Blasters as well.

Current Form

NorthEast United last played on 12th March and went down 4-1 against Mumbai City thanks to a Vikram Partap Singh hat-trick at the Mumbai Football Arena. It was Yoell van Nieff who got the other goal for the Islanders while Jithin MS struck in the 79th minute to ensure the Highlanders would return with some dignity. 

To make matters worse for the away side, young forward Parthib Gogoi picked up a red card in injury time. Given the fact that Gogoi has the most shots on target for the Highlanders in the league, he will certainly be a big miss.

Kerala Blasters on the other hand lost a balls-to-the-sack game against East Bengal 2-4 at home. Saul Crespo and Naorem Mahesh both scored a brace each for the Torchbearers silencing a raucous home crowd. 

Fedor Cernych and an own goal from Hijazi Maher was all that the Yellow Army could muster, as both Jeakson Singh and Naocha Singh picked up red cards to turn a bad encounter into one they would like to forget forever.

Head to Head Record

The two sides have faced each other 21 times, with Kerala Blasters having 9 victories to their name and NorthEast United having only 5.

The two teams played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in the league back in October, with Nestor Albiach scoring in the 12th minute and Danish Farooq cancelling the lead out in the 49th minute.

Team News

Parthib Gogoi will be a big miss for the Highlanders in this massive clash

For NorthEast United, Gogoi will be missing out after picking up the red card. Gani Nigam, Macaron Louis, and Redeem Tlang are all on 3 yellow cards currently and need to be wary of suspension if they pick up one more booking as per league rules.

For Kerala Blasters, both Jeakson and Naocha will have to sit out. Defender Hormipan Ruivah will also be unavailable as he has picked up yet another yellow card against East Bengal, making it 4 bookings for the season which would warrant a one-match suspension. 

Milos Drincic will be available for selection as he will return after serving his suspension while forward Emmanuel Justice is also out of action due to an injury. Mohammed Azhar, Sandeep Singh, Pritam Kotal, and Dimitri Diamantakos continue to be on the verge of suspension, having all been served with 3 yellow cards so far.

Predicted Starting XIs

NorthEast United (4-2-3-1): Gurmeet Singh; Soraisham Dinesh Singh, Asheer Akhtar, Míchel Zabaco, Buanthanglun Samte; Mohammed Ali Bemammer, Macarton Louis Nickson; Redeem Tlang, Konsam Phalguni Singh, Jithin MS; Nestor Albiach.

Kerala Blasters(4-4-2): Karanjit Singh; Sandeep Singh, Milos Drincic, Pritam Kotal, Prabir Das; Rahul KP, Vibin Mohanan, Danish Farooq, Saurav Mandal; Nihal Sudeesh, Ishan Pandita


It is all or nothing for NorthEast United – so they will do whatever it takes to pick up a vital win and charge all out to finish sixth on the table. With 5 teams aiming for the same spot, anything less than a win could cause Benali’s side to crash out of the race. 

For the Kerala Blasters, the onus will probably be to finish with 11 men on the pitch and not pick up any more injuries. So the odds are definitely with the Highlanders to eke out a win.