GUWAHATI: After an unimpressive 90 minutes in the inaugural match of the Indian Super League, NorthEast United FC take on FC Goa for their second league game at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Tuesday.
The Highlanders might have won the season opener against Kerala Blasters but their show had a lot of room for improvement. NEUFC coach Nelo Vingada opted to deploy a variant of the 4-3-3 formation with an orthodox attacking midfielder pushed forward to support the strikers. Later he changed the formation to 4-4-1-1 to open room for attackers. It was not very effective as it opened the doors for Blasters attackers, especially Antonio German. However, the Blasters attackers failed to take any advantage.
But with Goa, that combination may not work out. Goa coach Zico is known for his attacking formations. With a strong midfield that has the likes of Jofre Mateu, Julio Cesar and Romeo Fernandes, they will push forward to help their forwards Reinaldo Oliveira and Rafael Coelho.
FC Goa is however set to miss the services of former Bengaluru FC forward Robin Singh, who sustained a hamstring problem in the training session. Yet, Singh is not the only name in the squad to be carrying an injury. Goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, defender Denzil Franco and Luciano Sabrosa along with Gregory Arnolin are all injured and out of the season opener. The only big name in the squad is Brazilian legend Lucio. At 38, he is probably not in the best shape but, at the heart of the defence, he is still effective.
NEUFC players’ fitness will also be tested as they play their second game in less than 72 hours. Adding salt to their wounds, their star player Didier Zokora is also carrying an injury and will not feature. But Seityasen Singh is fit and is available for selection for Vingada. The NEUFC coach also hinted at no changes to the squad that played against Blasters on Saturday. But Vingada is also conscious about the NEUFC’s last four games against Goa, none of which have resulted in a win for the former.
"We have home advantage and we have found a rhythm considering it is our second game. But FC Goa is fresh as it is their first game of the season. We cannot change the fact and we will try to make the game difficult for them with the support of our fans," Vingada said. "It is also a special game for me as a Portuguese national to play against Goa as there is Portuguese blood still left in Goa and we have historical connections.
"Also, it is a great moment to play my team against the great Zico. He is one of the greatest players of the game and he has done very good work as a coach around the world," he added.
Last season, Goa were denied at the very last moment. And to have another shot at glory, they had travelled to Brazil for pre-season. Zico believes injury won’t stop them from claiming three points on Tuesday. He said: "I think all our players need game-time now. Yes, we have lost some players whom I would have wanted in the team but we have to deal with the squad available now."