Table toppers of the third edition of the Indian Super League (ISL), NorthEast United take guard at home once again. This time they host defending champions Chennaiyin FC who have had a slow start to the season.
The Highlanders' head coach Nelo Vingada was buoyant as ever ahead of the fixture historically dominated by John Abraham's men.
”We had a little time to recover in between the fifth and sixth game but for us playing six games in 20 days is still hard. There is not much difference between the teams and Chennaiyin are a good side. I feel any team must be in their best shape to try to win. Chennaiyin's loss to Delhi was not a good performance from then but they came back strong against Goa," stated the Portuguese born on the eve of the match.
”Even though Chennaiyin had less points, no team can say that they have enough points and also no team can say they have less points. The league is open. It is better the have 10 points than five or six but we have also played five games. We have to play with determination. On the field it will eleven versus eleven and so the quality of the players and organization will come into play. We want three points on Thursday and still we will have eight games left to play. This threee points will help a long way in making NorthEast United reach the playoffs," he added.
Chennaiyin, a powerful force in the ISL has surprisingly never beaten NorthEast in its previous two editions and when asked if that could add as an added motivation, Vingada tried to differ.
He said, “Each year is different. But yes, Chennaiyin have more or less the same team and the of course the same coach. I never look to much into tradition so I am not worried about that. I am worried about the opposition's quality and also our own team.
”The success we got away was more because of out mental condition. We organized well and when we got the ball, we counter-attacked. It is a good motivation that we are playing against the champions. The started the same last year and showed great determination to come back in the second round of matches. This league is short but they showed it is possible to recover," the former Iran national team coach commented.
The Highlanders play their sixth game within just 20 days and had played their first five inside 15 days. Fatigue is starting to take centre stage and when asked if he would like to rotate come Thursday, the 63-year-old had other ideas.
”My principle usually is not to change much. You can see one or two changes. We've had physical away games, especially in Pune when we played with ten men. and maybe our players might feel fatigued for that. We have got a certain rhythm by playing games as in you can have the best training sessions but if you don't play games then you are not in a rhythm," he commented.
”The team is starting to get a good identity but you need more time to get a better one.Now everyone knows how we play like in Delhi - we pressed them in their box and we created two-to-three good chances. It mostly depends on the quality of the opposition."
With 10 points already in their kitty, it is safe to say that they are on course to reach the semi-finals of the very first time in the history of the ISL. Vingada made his own ideas heard.
“In the first season, it was nineteen points which sealed a playoff spot and last season it was 22. So I think that should be the benchmark. We want to get 22 points as soon as possible and then see what happens. 22 points maybe or maybe not enough, you do not know,” he explained.
”I had told this earlier that I personally am in favour of more Indians in the starting line-up. We have now six out of eleven, two more than most of the AFC nations. I think next year it should be six Indians and five foreigners," Vingada reiterated his demand of making more Indians start the match.
”To be honest, in my team the Indian players we have, we are dependent on them a lot. I do not know about other teams but the likes of Kean Lewis and a couple from Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City are really good players," he concluded by making shrewd observations on young Indian players in the ISL.