NorthEast United FC will host Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) tie in Guwahati on Wednesday as both sides look to regain their momentum.
Amidst prevailing tension and unrest in the city, the organisers had first decided to conduct the match behind the closed doors of the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. However, in the football fans interest the match timings are revised to ensure that the fans get to see the match from the stands.
The ISL in a statement has confirmed that the game will be open to spectators.
NorthEast United FC are coming into this game off a 3-0 loss to ATK at home and are now winless in three matches. Not only was it their first defeat of the season, but they also lost their star striker Asamoah Gyan to injury in that game.
“It was very bad for us. That was the worst match we played. We never played so badly before. We have to forget that day and continue working hard,” NorthEast coach Robert Jarni said.
The Highlanders will again be without the prolific Ghanaian on Wednesday. Gyan, who has three goals to his name, has been crucial to NorthEast setup so far.
Without the former Premier League star, their attacking threat goes down a few notches and the other forwards will have their task cut out against a formidable Bengaluru defence which has conceded the least in the league.
However, Jarni would have had some time to formulate a plan of attack without Gyan, given that NorthEast have had a 10-day break after their last game, owing to the postponement of their home tie against Chennaiyin FC.
The return of Uruguayan attacking midfielder Federico Gallego in place of Maximiliano Barreiro also helps boost the Highlanders’ attack. Gallego, who contributed four goals and as many assists last season, makes his ISL return after suffering a leg break coincidentally against Bengaluru FC last season.
NorthEast’s defence has not been in great form of late, conceding six goals in three matches. The defence, led by Kai Heerings, need to step up to the task.
“The game is difficult. We know that Bengaluru is one of the best teams in India but we saw that the game was open in Bengaluru. We had the possibility to win and the same for tomorrow, so who knows what will happen tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Jarni.
Bengaluru FC come into this game after seeing their unbeaten start to the season come to an end against Mumbai City FC who won 3-2, thanks to an injury-time goal from Rowllin Borges.
However, despite the three goals they shipped on Sunday, Bengaluru have conceded only five goals so far this season and are the best defensive unit in the ISL by far.
It is the attack that should worry Carles Cuadrat though. Apart from Sunil Chhetri, none of the attackers seems to be in form. Ashique Kuruniyan is yet to open his account for the season and has put in some below-par performances so far.
“Last year we were champions but we lost an important player (Miku). We have been unlucky about the situation now. Ashique is with 0 assists and 0 goals and Udanta only one goal.
“So, of course, we have problems that way but at the same time we work in a way where they help us defensively,” explained Cuadrat.
In their four away matches so far, Bengaluru have scored just three goals and their shot accuracy and conversion rates have been disappointing. They are also struggling to score from open play. Four of their last five goals have come from set-pieces.
NorthEast have beaten Bengaluru just once in seven meetings between the two and the visitors will look to further improve that record. The two sides played out a goalless draw last time in the opening week of the current season.
To ensure that the fans are not deprived of the opportunity to watch the high-octane drama, the match will now start at 6.00 pm.
“The Hero Indian Super League Match 40 at Guwahati between NorthEast United FC and Bengaluru FC is now open to spectators, with 6:00 pm kick-off,” the ISL said in a statement.
“Spectators are advised to take note of the new kick-off time and plan their arrival to the stadium accordingly. Gates will be opened at 4:00 pm.”
Since the match timings clash with the LIVE broadcast of the second One Day International between India and the West Indies, the LIVE broadcast of the ISL match will be available only on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 3 from 4:00 pm. The feed will also be streamed LIVE on Hotstar and JioTV.