NorthEast United vs Bengaluru: Preview and Prediction
The two teams who kick-started their journey of the 2022-23 Indian Super League season by battling out each other are going to square off once again. The stage of Matchday 14 will be lighting up when Bengaluru led by captain Sunil Chhetri will be arriving at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium of Guwahati to take on Northeast United on Friday.
As the ninth-edition caravan of the Indian Super League is moving towards the further stages, the form of Bengaluru is worsening at a furious speed. The two consecutive defeats in the most recent fixtures have dragged the Blues into the bottom three of the standings. The Karnataka-based outfit is currently seated in the ninth position in the points table having fetched only 10 points from the 12 league games.
The thumping triumph over Kolkata giants ATK Mohun Bagan brought a breath of fresh air to the Highlanders’ camp but the positive vibes shattered quickly in the very next fixture. It was the first win of the 2022-23 season for the Northeastern knights which came after a forgettable winless run of 10 games.
The former I-League-winning Italian gaffer Vincenzo Alberto Annese was visibly frustrated with the recent outcome after suffering his ISL coaching career’s biggest loss.
The Highlanders travelled to the City of Pearls to challenge the defending ISL champions in the final game of the year 2022. However, the Guwahati-based outfit was crushed by the Nizams in a one-sided encounter where the home team scalped six goals. A 35th-minute strike from the Australian central defender Aaron Evans turned out to be the only goal from the visitors in a 6-1 saga.
The Namma Blues also suffered a defeat in their final fixture of 2022 where they faced the eighth-placed East Bengal side in the City of Joy. Despite dominating the Red and Golds in various aspects such as ball possession, shots on target, and passing accuracy, Bengaluru couldn’t convert these numbers into goals and lost a crucial away fixture.
The former Blues forward Cleiton Silva got his name on the scoresheet to bag a brace from the winning outcome and completed three goals in a season against his former club.
Since Bengaluru’s promotion to the country’s top-flight league, they have shared the battlefield with NorthEast United 13 times to date. The Blues are leading the head-to-head record of this recently emerged rivalry with seven victories and drawn four encounters. Meanwhile, the Highlanders have managed to register only two wins over the 2018-19 champions and also have quite a low goal-scoring rate of 0.9 goals per match.
The most famous encounter between these two ISL powerhouses was staged in the semi-final round of the 2018-19 season conquested by Bengaluru. Despite losing the away leg by 1-2, the Men in Blues bounced back in the away leg to barge into the Grand Finale with the aggregate triumph by 4-2.
The semi-final exit and injury of their star player Federico Gallego infuriated the fans who got the opportunity to support their club in the penultimate stage of this league for the first time.
The Karnataka-based outfit claimed all three match points in the most recent chapter face-off too which occurred in October 2022. The scoreline remained unaffected until the 87th minute when the Brazilian defender Alan Costa scored the late winner and opened the match points account for the home team.
We are expecting hefty changes in the Highlanders’ line-up which took the field against Hyderabad and suffered a painful outcome. The Kerala-based goalkeeper Mirshad Michu may lose his place to the veteran Arindham Bhattacharja after recently conceding six goals against Hyderabad. The Spanish holding midfielder Jon Gaztanaga will be returning to the starting XI after serving a one-match suspension in the Hyderabad fixture for receiving four yellow cards.
Bengaluru has managed to score only two goals in the past 270 minutes owing to their pro-defensive approach and Simon Grayson may revert to a classic 4-4-2 formation instead. Naorem Roshan Singh may experience a change in his position from wing-back to full-back, receiving more defensive responsibilities. The Kashmiri central midfielder Danish Farooq is likely to make a comeback in the Starting XI after sitting on the substitute bench in the previous fixture.
Predicted Starting XIs
NorthEast United (4-3-3): Arindam Bhattacharja; Joe Zoherliana, Gaurav Bora, Aaron Evans, Tondoba Singh; Emil Benny, Jon Gaztanaga, Pragyan Gogoi; Rochharzela, Wilmar Jordan, Romain Philippoteaux
Bengaluru (4-4-2): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Naorem Roshan Singh, Alan Costa, Sandesh Jhingan, Namgyal Bhutia; Javi Hernandez, Suresh Wangjam, Danish Farooq, Pablo Perez; Sunil Chhetri, Roy Krishna
It is quite hard to predict the winner of this contest as both of the combatants are having identical chances of winning. NorthEast United will have to capitalize on the advantage of playing in front of the home crowd into results while they also have a good track record of winning such clutch games.
The Blues undoubtedly have the apt potential to emerge victorious from this forthcoming fixture as the visitors just need to play up to their strength and keep their high-profile faces in pivotal roles.