Guwahati: A new beginning will be on their minds when NorthEast United take on Jamshedpur FC in their first match at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday.
‘The Highlanders’ have unfortunately never made it to the play-offs despite coming agonizingly close in the past two seasons, eventually finishing fifth. But new coach Joao de Deus is confident that things are bound to change this season.
Calling it a new beginning he said, “I can’t speak of the past. At this moment, our team, we have a group of qualified coaches who have deep knowledge of training.”
The league this season is however a longer one and early signs would not be enough to win the title. “In competition with so much demand, we should be careful in some situation. We are preparing our team in a certain way,” he added aware that longitivity will be a big factor this edition.
Local talents from the north-eastern region has been given the preference this season as NorthEast United aim for their first ISL title. They may have not signed a marquee player but possess one of the most balanced sides. With players such as Seiminlen Doungel, Lalrempuia, Malemnganba Meitei, and Halicharan Narzary in their ranks, the team possess enough pace in their wings and combine with that the midfield manned by last year’s AIFF emerging player of the year, Rowlin Borges.
The 25-year-old, however reportedly injured himself in the training sessions and may miss the opening match tomorrow. De Deus however refused to comment on the player’s current status, instead retaliating, “We will know on the field. If he is not available obviously we are not going to play with just 10 players. He’ll be in the XI if he is fit.”
Jamshedpur FC on the other hand, may be making their debut in the cash-rich League but possess a coach that led Kerala Blasters to the finals last season and some players from that squad. The may be the newest franchise but that won’t be making a big difference feels head coach Steve Coppell.
“I am excited about our first match. My squad has been preparing for six to seven weeks. I think we are all raring to go. Looking for the challenge. We are a new franchise but that doesn’t make a great deal of difference,” said the former Man City coach.
Experience has been a big factor for the ISL newbies, with most of their recruits experienced campaigners in the league. Will that be an added advantage – Coppell certainly thinks no. “We’re preparing in a dark area,” he says and advantaged won’t count as a factor but performance will be, he feels.
It would be a tough game for both the sides as they aim to rewrite history in the ISL.