ISL 2023-24: NorthEast Utd ignite playoff aspirations against power-packed Mohun Bagan Super Giant

February 16, 2024
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Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG), buoyed by the unbeaten streak of FC Goa, is gearing up to host a similarly confident NorthEast United FC

Kolkata, Feb 16 (IANS) Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG), buoyed by the unbeaten streak of FC Goa, is gearing up to host a similarly confident NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) at the Salt Lake Stadium to kick off the Saturday double header of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24. The Mariners must be understandably buoyant after managing to put brakes over a seemingly unstoppable FC Goa unit, that too in Fatorda, Goa.

Dimitrios Petratos rose to the occasion to deliver a decisive blow that will have a ripple effect at the top of the table, and Antonio Lopez Habas must be looking to continue that impressive run when they welcome the Highlanders on Saturday. On the other hand, NEUFC beat MBSG rivals East Bengal FC in a thrilling 3-2 encounter in Guwahati last Saturday. Powered by the incoming striker Tomi Juric, their attack donned a sudden lethal look that took the Red & Gold Brigade aback immediately.

Interestingly, both sides head into this contest on the back of momentum and form favouring them. The Mariners had made light work of NEUFC when they last met in the ISL in December, but one must surely expect a more gripping and competitive contest this time around, given the context and circumstances. Slowly but steadily, Habas and his plans are taking shape in the MBSG unit. With their win against FC Goa, they have now kept clean sheets in consecutive matches for the first time in this ISL season.

Despite three losses and two draws, along with the departure of Juan Ferrando as the head coach, the team has accumulated 26 points in the first 13 games of this ISL season -– which is their highest tally at this stage of any campaign of the competition so far. Moreover, the eight victories they have garnered thus far are their most wins after the aforementioned number of matches as well, suggesting that things might not be as troublesome as they appeared to be at one point of the season for MBSG.

An interesting pattern in their gameplay is that they get into the groove after an initial period of adjustment, having yet to concede a goal and netted five times between minutes 16-30 of their matches in ISL 2023-24. Wins against Hyderabad FC and FC Goa have set them in the right rhythm and Habas wouldn’t want to lose out on this form, especially when playing at home, despite this being the third game that they will play in a week.

The duo of Juric and Nestor Albiach joined hands to unlock a neatly organised East Bengal FC defence in the last game and they will step into this match with similar objectives. Impressively, NEUFC boast of a laudable goal-scoring record against MBSG already, having found the back of the at least once in each of their previous eight fixtures. It is their longest such active streak against any team in the league. The victory against the Red & Gold Brigade was essential for their playoffs aspirations, considering that it brought curtains to their eight-game unbeaten streak in the ISL – in a period where they had seen five draws and three losses.

A prospective win against the Mariners will help them secure consecutive wins in the ISL for the first time since January 2021, and Benali will desire such a run for his team to boost their form ahead of the final leg of the league campaign.

–IANS/bsk/

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