NEUTD FC vs. CHE FC Preview

Will The Highlanders Continue their Home Form?

Chennaiyin FC will be making what is one of the longest road trips in the Indian Super League as they travel from Chennai to Guwahati’s Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium to take on NorthEast United or NEUTD FC. The match is expected to be one of the most entertaining in the league simply because the last year’s champions are visiting this year’s most in-form team and the league leaders.

NEUTD FC’s Form & Strategy

emiliano-alfaro-neutd-fcAnalysing NorthEast United FC’s performance so far in the league, an argument can be made in favour of the connection between consistency with respect to team formation and results. The Highlanders have turned out in the same formation with virtually the same players in nearly every single game.

Nelo Vingada’s NEUTD FC has done a lot of things right this season which is why they sit pretty on top of the pile. They happen to be the team with the most shots on target in the league. More importantly, they’ve converted a lot of those shots too since they’re the highest goal scorers and highest assist makers in the league.

This great team performance is the direct fallout of great individual performances. The highlight of these performances has been Emiliano Alfaro’s goal scoring. Alfaro has scored four goals in five games, the highest in the league. Like his team, he also has the most shots on target in the league.

It’s not all offence from The Highlanders either. Their goalkeeper, Subrata Paul, is easily the best in the league. He has the most clean sheets (3) and the most saves (24). The problem, however, is that for their keeper to have saved so many shots, NEUTD FC’s defenders would’ve had to let opponents take those shots.

Chennaiyin FC’s Form & Strategy

manuele-blasi-che-fcThis could be something that Chennaiyin FC will look to leverage, especially since their attacking game has gradually become better as the league has gone on. While the improvement in The Super Machans’ attacking gameplay isn’t evident with their results (one win in last three), it has been visible in the games. They just have to ensure that they improve their conversion.

The Super Machans are actually well placed in the league and their current position of sixth is actually quite deceptive. The reason is that Chennaiyin FC has two games in hand over the league leaders. If they win those two games, then they’ll be tied on 10 points with NEUTD FC at the top of the league table.

Chennaiyin FC doesn’t really have a steady line-up or formation but the size of its players is notable. The Super Machans have some big players who could pose The Highlanders’ diminutiveness some problems.

Marco Materazzi, FIFA World Cup Winner (2006), UEFA Champions League Winner (Inter Milan-2009), and five-time Italian Serie A Winner (Inter Milan), has plenty of experience as a player that he has been translating into his managerial career.

A notable example of this was how Materazzi changed his defence in the last game after conceding too many goals in preceding matches. He brought in a defensive midfielder to sit in front of his back four and cover the passing lanes. NEUTD FC can expect Materazzi to employ the same strategy and tactics.

Which Way Will R2D2 Roll?

Despite the recent resurgence of Chennaiyin FC, our prediction is a NorthEast United FC win. The Highlanders can be expected to prevail over The Super Machans by one goal to nil. We are making this prediction after considering the physical upper hand of CHE FC players over NEUTD FC players.

NorthEast United FC has already navigated a tricky tie against another physical team of the league FC Pune City and should be able to deal with Chennaiyin FC’s physicality. More importantly, NEUTD FC has performed well at home till now, beating Kerala Blasters FC and FC Goa comprehensively.

FC Pune City vs. Northeast United FC Preview

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

didier-zokora-northeast-united-fcNorthEast 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

mohamed-sissoko-fc-pune-cityFC 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.

Northeast United FC vs. Kerala Blasters FC: KBFC’s Master Class!

Northeast United FC vs. Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters FC are bottom of the table as I predicted before the season began. I feel no sense of accomplishment in that. What I do feel proud about is Northeast United FC and how they’re on track to proving me right. I suggested in the beginning that Northeast United FC have the potential to surprise everything this time out and that is panning out to be, more or less, true.

Kerala Blasters FC are bottom of the table and on the way they’ve been playing, I feel that that is a perfectly fine place for them to be. On paper, Northeast United FC may be overachieving but it’s not a surprise for anyone who is aware of what Cesar Farias has done in the past.

It should also not be a surprise for seasoned football watchers because teams that rely on internal solutions and work with minimal funds tend to take time to gel. Farias, according to me, is the perfect man to do that for Northeast United FC.

A win would put Northeast United FC, would you believe it, top of the Indian Super League 2015 table. They’re at home so I expect them to do the job too!

Team News for Northeast United FC & Kerala Blasters FC

Northeast United FC - Ceras FariasNortheast United FC have tempered and defanged many problems in this season. They lost a number of players which caused their early season form to be woeful. However, they have recovered since then earning 13 points out of the last 18 that they’ve contended for.

Along the way, they’ve done the double on two of the four semi-finalists of the last season – Chennaiyin FC and Atletico De Kolkata.

That’s no mean feat. I don’t need to tell you Kerala Blasters FC’s form in the last eight games. They’ve only won once in that time! So, let’s not dwell on someone else’s misery and move on to team news.

Farias chose to make huge changes to the team that beat Chennaiyin FC last time out. He replaced no less than seven players in his team. However, the changes only brought in critical players into the starting line-up because last time out, Farias chose to rest them. In came the defenders Aibor Khongjee, Robin Gurung, and Cedric Hengbart for Reagan Singh and Raju Yumnam with Andre Bikey being deployed in the midfield.

In midfield, Farias chose Alen Deory and Silas over Bruno Herrero Arias and Siam Hanghal. He also gave starts to Nicolas Velez and Sanju Pradhan while Francis Dadzie, Diomansy Kamara, and Seityasen Singh all got benched.

Kerala Blasters FC saw four changes in the form of Antonio German, Sandesh Jhingan, Pulga, and Cavin Lobo starting in place of Mohammed Rafi, Bruno Perone, Ishfaq Ahmed, and the injured Sanchez Watt.

Kerala Blasters FC with a Smashing Beginning

Kerala Blasters FC - Chris DagnallThe first half saw a lightening start from the southerners who scored in the first minute. They pressed Northeast United FC back like demons and rattled them to no end.

Northeast United FC lost the ball which went to German who squared the ball on the floor for Chris Dagnall to pummel into the net under pressure. Northeast United FC 0 – 1 Kerala Blasters FC

It was a very good beginning not only for Kerala Blasters FC but also for the game because Northeast United FC were playing at home. This would ensure that they didn’t sit back, not that that was a danger. Still, this would result in the game becoming more open, attacking, and end to end.

Northeast United FC Fight Back

Northeast United FC - Cedric HengbartNortheast United FC didn’t let their heads drop though. They fought back like they meant it.

They attacked Kerala Blasters FC with nonstop pressing and accomplished wing play.

Velez was a constant thorn in Kerala Blasters’ side along with Simao.

It was he who won a freekick on the right flank when Jhingan shoulder barged him too strongly. The resulting cross fell on to Hengbart’s head, five yards out from the goal. Hengbart headed the ball into the ground straight at the keeper, Stephen Bywater. Bywater parried and the spilt effort was skied by Hengbart.

Kerala Blasters FC Double Their Lead

Kerala Blasters FC - Cavin LoboDespite being put under insane amounts of pressure, Kerala Blasters FC doubled their lead in the 21st minute.

It was a simple goal that came through Lobo.

Lobo broke the Northeast United FC offside trap well and his excellence was met with Josu’s excellence in the way of a lofted ball.

Lobo took the ball down well and finished under the keeper into the far corner. Northeast United FC 0 – 2 Kerala Blasters FC

The goal came from nothing. It was just sorry defending from Northeast United FC. They were keeping a high line throughout the game and it turned out to be their primary problem with this goal.

Kerala Blasters FC Fashion More Chances

Kerala Blasters FC - JosuNortheast United FC would continue attacking but in the last few minutes of the half, Kerala Blasters FC fashioned some really great chances to extend their lead. First they were sliced open by Chris Dagnall dribbling and crossing skills and then it was a header from Peter Ramage that caused them problems.

That was followed by a peach of a shot from Josu from outside the box. The ball was passed to him from the left flank and he hit the shot first time without breaking his stride.

Effort but No Product from Northeast United FC in Second Half

Northeast United FC - SimaoThe second half began in a tepid manner. Northeast United FC tried to make things happen with a substitution but it didn’t have the effect that Farias probably intended.

Kerala Blasters FC were playing well knocking the ball about and keeping the home team and home fans quiet. However, things did heat up with a melee between the two teams fuelled by a penalty claim by Simao.

The claim was genuine but it was a call that could’ve gone either way. Referee chose to favour Kerala Blasters FC which incensed Northeast United FC players to no end.

Kerala Blasters FC Add Two More Goals

Kerala Blasters FC - Antonio GermanNortheast United FC looked toothless throughout the second half. The only time they looked even a little bit effective was when Diomansy Kamara came on and dribbled the ball.

Even Kamara’s efforts would mean nothing because Kerala Blasters FC would add two more goals to their tally. The first of these came from German after Josu dribbled to the by-line only to pull the ball back.

German would receive the ball and caress it with their left foot into the far bottom corner. Northeast United FC 0 – 3 Kerala Blasters FC

That goal was immediately followed by Kerala Blasters FC’s fourth which was scored solely on the shoulders of Dagnall. Dagnall dribbled the ball a good distance and was pushed wider and wider by Northeast United FC defence. He was unfazed though because he smashed the ball into the right bottom corner from a left sided acute angle. Northeast United FC 0 – 4 Kerala Blasters FC

Northeast United FC players were so dejected that the rest of the second half went by in a doze. There was nothing to report for the last ten minutes up until the 91st minute. Velez scored his 4th goal of the season with a wicked left footed shot that was hit so hard that the keeper didn’t even see it. Northeast United FC 1 – 4 Kerala Blasters FC

Tactical Analysis:  First Impressions + Projections

This was, no doubt, a silly game for Northeast United FC fans. The highlanders were strangely pathetic in this game. It wasn’t even that Farias made a miscalculation or Terry Phelan came up with a rabbit out of the hat.

This loss was all down to the Northeast United FC players having a game to forget. They were slow, uncommitted, and uninterested in the game. If someone was to tell me that all the Northeast United FC players went out to party last night and guzzled three bottles of whiskey each, I wouldn’t be surprised because they were playing like they had a splitting hangover.

If I was to pick some tactical flaw from Farias, I would go with the Northeast United FC penchant for a high defensive line. Lobo especially had a lot of joy with that high defensive line. He broke the offside trap consistently in the game with his channel running.

A high defensive line only works when you have a lot of possession or if the opponent players are slow. It doesn’t work when you give the opponents enough time to pick out a pass. The Lobo goal was like a still life painting – that’s how static the Northeast United FC defenders were.

Bikey in midfield, according to me, was a slight mistake as well although it wasn’t responsible for the loss. Bikey just isn’t mobile enough to play the role of the ball winner which is what he was put there for. Granted, he was physical but he was too slumberous to use that strength.

Also worth pointing is that Simao had a forgettable game. He forgot to show up for this game to the detriment of his team.

Indian Super League 2015 Preview II: FCPC, MCFC, Dynamos, and NEUTD FC

Indian Super League 2015This is the second half the Indian Super League 2015 preview. In the last instalment, I gave my opinion of how Atletico De Kolkata, Kerala Blasters FC, Chennaiyin FC, and FC Goa have prepared for ISL2. My focus was on the backroom (senior management) staff and their efforts because they seem to always escape attention. However, it is the senior management that is mostly responsible for getting in new players, getting the existing players to sign contracts, and even improving the training facilities.

I grant you naysayers that the system on which the Indian Super League is built isn’t all that “senior management” focused but that doesn’t mean that those rich blokes can sit on their arse and do nothing. They have to be active during the off season in getting in new international players and re-signing the players that their managers have pinpointed as must-have.

Mumbai City FC Will Be One Of The Most Improved Teams And Should Reach Playoffs

Mumbai City - Sony NordeBe afraid; be very afraid of what Mumbai City FC can do this season. MCFC fans must be licking their lips at the prospect of seeing this team out in the field. I think what Nicolas Anelka has done with this team in his managerial capacity is nothing than brilliant.

The choice of his signings as well as the kind of signings he has made show that The Great Sulk has it when it comes to management. For instance, Anelka has focused on high quality attackers and looked for consistent defenders. His team’s attack force is being lauded in the mainstream media and rightly so. He’s got some real talent on the attacking front and what’s scary is that all of them won’t even be able to enter the field at the same time.

Consider the fact that Anelka can line up Frederic Piquionne, Sunil Chhetri, Andre Moritz, and Sony Norde on a single pitch, if he chose to overload his attack. Of these, the only player I am not sure of is Frederic Piquionne. I wasn’t sure of his abilities when he was in the peak of his years and now that he’s 36 years old, I am even more sceptical. Sunil Chhetri needs no introduction to any Indian football fan but I will point out that he will most probably not play MCFC’s first two games on account of his national team hero’s doodies. The same goes for Andre Moritz and Sony Norde with the latter lighting up last year’s I-League with 13 assists and nine goals.

Mumbai City FC - Darren O DeaAnelka’s decision to go for consistent defenders from lower European leagues is a stroke of genius too. Defending is only an art form at really higher levels.

At lower level football, defending is more about being in the right place consistently which is a result of good physical fitness and decision making.

I think with the defenders Anelka will rely on like Darren O’Dea (a former Bhoy), Frantz Bertin (a good, mobile defender), and Cmovs (we know what he can do already) will be more than capable of blunting most other teams’ attacks this season. This list doesn’t even include Juan Aguilera Nunez and Selim Benachour, both of whom are capable of dribbling, passing, and creating chances from midfield.

All this adds up to one thing and one thing alone. I predict Mumbai City FC to have a great Indian Super League 2015 season. Whichever way you look at it, MCFC fans should get ready to party in the coming three months of the Indian Super League 2015.

FC Pune City Can Click Or Miss In the Indian Super League 2015 Season

FC Pune City is a mystery. Their chances in the Indian Super League 2015 season are in flux. The situation of FC Pune City is such that their fans will be feeling incredibly positive while their detractors will be rubbing their palms in glee too. The reason why I feel that FC Pune City’s fate is too hard to call is that there are too many uncertain variables involved.

For instance, take their manager, David Platt. Platt was a good man to bank on in his playing days but his managerial career has neither been stellar nor abysmal. He has cruised through his managerial career almost ambivalently. He could make all the difference in the case of FC Pune City or he could get trapped in mediocrity.

FC Pune City’s marquee player is Adrian Mutu and he is travelling in the same boat. At his peak, Mutu was a star performer. He had the talent, pace, power, and skill to take apart any defence but he got taken apart by his penchant for drugs. I’ll be frank: I liked Mutu even though he played for Chelsea before he actually got caught with drugs in his system.

Following double bans, Mutu’s career dove into oblivion in a blur. He could continue his bad boy attitude or turn it around with FC Pune City in the Indian Super League 2015 season. To be fair to Mutu, he does have noble intentions this time around. He has come out and said that he hopes to make the Euro 2016 if Romania qualifies. Apparently, his manager has told him that if he plays well, then he’ll be considered for the trip to France.

That’s enough incentive for any professional footballer. It is doubly so for one who has thrown away his whole career for entertainment, indulgence, and sheer stupidity. Whether the Indian Super League 2015 season will be Mutu’s redemption season or not will play a major role in how FC Pune City performs.

Mainstream media says that Mutu will be partnered by the Nigerian international Kalu Uche. Uche isn’t of the same pedigree as Mutu when it comes to talent but he does have a very unpredictable snapshot that could get him a few goals in ISL2. Still, instead of Uche, I think Tuncay Sanli will be a better option for Platt for partnering Mutu. Sanli is a Turkish star who is capable of scoring and assisting. Sanli has a good freekick on him too. If Sanli and Mutu click, then FC Pune City will click too in Indian Super League 2015.

Indian midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh can also come really good for FC Pune City. Eugene is a central midfielder who has a calm, composed, and visionary head on his shoulders. As for the other well-known Indian midfielder in FC Pune City’s ranks, Jackichand Singh, you can see him as the Romeo of the Indian Super League 2015 season. Jackichand Singh is a tricky winger who can be expected to have a breakout season a la Romeo last year.

FC Pune City - Didier ZokoraDefence of FC Pune City is decent but not great with recognisable but non-star names like Nicky Shorey (left back / centre back) and Roger Johnson (central defender). Both, Shorey and Johnson have heavy experience in English Premier League. I have seen them both play in the past and both of them are consistent.

They will do the FC Pune City defence a world of good especially since they’ll be protected by hard man Didier Zokora. Zokora is another who has had good top flight exposure in multiple leagues. However, I think his temperament is suspect because he has a tendency to get too many cards.

When I consider FC Pune City’s Indian Super League 2015 squad, I see hope for boom and hints of bust.

This is why I think that their future can be a hit or a miss. Personally, I hope they do well. I’ve always liked a fairy-tale story and would appreciate such stories for people like Mutu. I also want to see Eugene and Jackichand do well (yes I am a martial arts / Jackie Chan fan like his parents).

Northeast United FC Can Surprise Everyone in the Indian Super League 2015 Season

Say what you will but I will always have a soft spot for any team or individual who is trying to compete with limited resources by focusing on long term development. This is why I am a lifetime fan of Arsenal and this is why I like Northeast United FC. There’s something special about striving when the odds are all up against you. In simple terms, I want Northeast United FC to succeed because they remind me of Rocky – the underdog.

So, what was it that sucked so badly with Northeast United FC last season? At the root of it all was lack of funds but on the pitch, it was their attack. Their defence was fairly steady led by Miguel Garcia but NEUTD FC was almost toothless in attack. They would maintain possession but have no way to breach defences. They’ve focused on these flaws and prepared for the Indian Super League 2015 season well if you ask me.

They’ve changed their manager and brought in Cesar Faria. Cesar Faria likes to play possession football and does have some serious achievements in his past in the role of the manager. It might be a coup for NEUTD FC to have gotten him. I am very curious to see what Faria can do with a team as brimming with talent and energy as NEUTD FC. Under his tutelage and tactical acumen, I expect to see some surprise results from NEUTD FC.

In addition to their manager, NEUTD FC have also brought in Simao Sabrosa. Simao is a playmaker who can play in the wings or as a central attacking midfielder. He has awesome dribbling and free kick ability. Both of these are skills that make a difference in the Indian setup as we saw in the last season (think Elano, Santos, and Dos Santos). Simao has had a rich and happening career. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if there was no Ronaldo, he could’ve been the most popular footballer from Portugal.

Northeast United FC - Boubacar SanogoAnother gem that NEUTD FC have brought in is Boubacar Sanogo. Sanogo is an Ivory Coast international and any football follower would tell you that Ivory Coast is no longer a chump team in world football.

To have gotten into their national team is an achievement in itself so I think Sanogo will be a good player to watch. Sanogo will most probably be partnered by Diomansy Kamara – the man whose best days were spent at Portsmouth, West Bromwich Albion, and Fulham.

Kamara is also a dribbler and channel runner so he should dovetail well with both Sanogo and Simao. They also have Francis Dadzie and Nicolas Velez who can play in attack. Dadzie will be a physically imposing backup striker while Velez I think will be deployed on the wings.

It would be interesting to see who is between the sticks for NEUTD FC between Gennaro Bracigliano and Rehenesh TP. Although I do think it will be the former and not the latter simply on age and experience.

In Indian Super League 2015, I expect NEUTD FC to challenge for the last playoff spot and possibly make it if they can really maximise their potential.

Delhi Dynamos FC Will Continue To Be The Worst Team In The Indian Super League 2015 Season

Adil Nabi! Adil Nabi! And Adil Nabi! That’s all that Delhi Dynamos FC fans have to be cheerful about in the Indian Super League 2015 season. Fine; seeing Roberto Carlos Florent Malouda, and John Arne Riise on the same pitch maybe something that will make them smile. However, I still feel that the one player who’ll truly shine for them in the Indian Super League 2015 season will be Nabi. Carlos is so much past his best that he has a belly; Malouda had started disappearing in games long before he came to Delhi, and Riise is a defender by trade who never really had a lot of flair.

The reason why I think Adil Nabi will be a standout performer for Delhi Dynamos FC in the Indian Super League 2015 season is his skill. He is young, has oodles of technique, and even has that rare striker’s instinct. Mark my word, he will make many defenders in ISL2 look like muppets on their backside before he’s done. For those of you wondering why he is here, my answer is simple. West Bromwich Albion have been focusing on India for a long time as a market they want to tap into.

If Nabi can capture some fans, then West Brom get those fans by simple transference. At the same time, Delhi Dynamos FC has experience in the form of Carlos, Malouda, and Riise. West Brom must be hoping that Nabi can learn something from them. I still think this loan is more of a business call than a youth development call.

I hope Carlos pairs Nabi with Robin Singh but I have a feeling that Richard Gadze (can’t see him being all that good) will get preference there. Riise will most probably be a central defender or be deployed in midfield. I have no idea where Carlos sees himself playing. Midfield should also see Serginho Greene (hard tackler), Dos Santos (had a good season last time), and Hans Mulder (the man from Star Wars and the X-Files).

While Delhi Dynamos FC has improved from last season, according to me, the improvement isn’t enough. They will remain the worst as per my assessment. I think even Northeast United FC will be above them this time around but it will be a close run thing.