Aggression vs. Finesse
FC Pune City will look to pile on the misery on NorthEast United FC as the Stallions host the Highlanders at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium. The matchup between these two teams is billed to be one where physical aggression is pitted against passing finesse.
NorthEast United FC’s Form & Strategy
NorthEast United FC’s Nelo Vingada likes his team to pass the ball around on the deck before releasing the defence-splitting through balls. The Highlanders are fairly consistent in their formation, relying on 4-5-1 heavily. Even though they use a five-man midfield, they do tend to tweak within that formation to account for opponent’s capabilities. They switch between 4-1-2-2-1 with wide wingers for opponents that are dangerous on the attack and 4-2-1-2-1 with tucked in wingers for opponents that are defensively proficient.
The Highlanders started the Indian Super League season 2 in a rich vein of form, taking down FC Goa (2 – 0) and Kerala Blasters FC (1 – 0) but have since stumbled in their first away game at Mumbai City FC. Having said that, it is important to note that NorthEast United FC gave a good account of themselves in their last match, despite the 1 – 0 score line.
That single goal was a result of an unforced error by their marquee player Didier Zokora in the form of a poor cross-field pass over the penalty box. The poor pass resulted in the penalty that was converted. For this reason, it would be interesting to see if Mailson Alves, their primary defender, will return from injury to face FC Pune City or if Zokora will continue in defence.
FC Pune City’s Form & Strategy
FC Pune City started the season poorly with a home loss (0 – 1) to their derby rivals Mumbai City FC. However, they turned things around in their last game away to FC Goa by stealing the game in the 90th minute. They won with a score line of 1 – 2 and the 90th-minute goal is bound to have left them in very high spirits coming into this game. Effectively, while the Stallions will be raring to go, the Highlanders will have to pick themselves up.
The home team has the potential to mix things up with respect to their formation. In the first game, FC Pune City set out in the 4-2-3-1 formation, while in the second they played in the traditional 4-5-1 formation. There will be a notable difference in style between these two teams because FC Pune City’s manager Antonio Habas likes a tough game.
He prefers a battling style of play with a lot of physicality, something that is reflected in his marquee signing Mohamed Sissoko. Sissoko really threw himself around in the last game but got away with it. If he continues this style of play, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he receives his marching orders or, at the very least, a yellow card.
How Will the Cookie Crumble?
The result of this game will rest on which style of play comes out on top – the passing game or the physical game. Key players for both teams will be playing in the same positions i.e. the roving playmaker, defensive midfielder, and the goalkeeper. For the Highlanders, performances of Nicolas Velez and Borges will be the key since Subrata Paul, their keeper is certain to be stable and reliable considering his form. On the other side, The Stallions will rely on their playmaker, Jonatan Lucca, their keeper, Apoula Edima Edel Bete, and their defensive midfielder Sissoko.
The two teams can be said to be equally matched, so a scoring draw (1 – 1) will be the most likely result. However, if you were to be brave, a small punt towards a home win with a score line of 1 – 0 wouldn’t be all that amiss. A long shot would be to put money on Lucca to score; he’s in very good form.