Guwahati: After a impressive start to the season with a goaless draw against Jamshedpur, NorthEast however find themselves languising in the ninth position with just four points from five matches and will aim to get back to winning ways when they take on Mumbai City FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Wednesday.
With just one win over a hapless Delhi Dynamos, NorthEast have failed to score goal on a regular basis with Santos product Danilo guilty of missing some easy chances in the past five matches, that has seen the ‘Highlanders’ net only two goals, both coming in the 2-0 victory over the Dynamos. Coach De Deus did acknowledge that his team has to score more goals but at the time rubbished aside any thoughts of his team not qualifying for the knock-out round.
“It’s too early” to predict which four teams qualify for the business end of the season said De Deus while also adding, “We have played five games but no one wins or loses the league after that many games. This is a different type of competition. Even the team that finishes at the top of the table doesn’t win the league. But, of course, we have to win more games and score more goals.”
Returning home after a 0-1 loss against Kerala Blasters, NorthEast will nonetheless hope to take advantage of their home turf but will miss goalkeeper TP Rehenesh who was shown a straight red after a harsh tackle of Mark Sifneos in the previous encounter.
However more than missing the match the NorthEast no. 1 seems to have lost the confidence of the coach De Deus, who when asked about his choice of the goalkeeper against Mumbai clearly stated, “When we started the season, we had three keepers. Obviously TP played the first five because the coach though he was the best goalkeeper. Now the coach doesn’t think he is the best. Well, now I feel that Ravi Kumar is the best.”
Their opponents on the other hand have equal worries with just seven points from six matches and come into the fixture after a 0-1 loss against ATK at home, their first this season. Coach Guimarães and his boys will however hope to get back to winning ways knowing a victory will put them back into the top four above fellow Maharashtra opponents FC Pune.
The ‘Islanders’ will also miss midfielder Sehnaj Singh who is serving a one-game suspension after having picked up his fourth yellow card of the season in the previous match against ATK.
Coach Guimarães however refused to reveal who will replace the 24-year-old in the starting line-up. “It’s a long night. I still have to think about that,” he said.
Having played their last game just three days ago, the Costa Rican tactician did talk about their long travels and tough competition this season. “We played our last game last Sunday and we had to travel immediately for our next game. But it’s the same with all the teams and I’m looking forward to playing on this (NEUFC) pitch which is one of the best in the league,” he concluded.