BENGALURU: The race for top four is such that NorthEast United FC, who are currently in fifth place with 27 points, cannot afford to drop points in their last two games of the season. First up, their immediate task would be to collect three points against East Bengal at Fatorda Stadium on Tuesday and then think about their next game against Kerala Blasters.
Ever since Khalid Jamil took over as the interim coach after the sacking of Gerard Nus mid January, the Indian has been impressive on the hot seat, having defeated teams like ATK Mohun Bagan, Jamshedpur FC, Mumbai City among others. More importantly, they have not lost a single game under Jamil and the Highlanders will be eager to keep that record intact in the business end.
It is not only about the result, their offensive play has gone a notch up. They have scored six goals in the last two games and overall 14 in seven. It is such kind of form that makes them an immediate favourite to collect three points, but assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew knows they have to think one game at a time.
“We concentrate on our game tomorrow and then will think about the last game against KBFC. Tomorrow is a very important game for us. We have to play very well. We have to defend well, we have to attack well, we have to create chances and then utilise them and give our 100 percent. This is a game we cannot take easy. We have to show character and give our best throughout 90 minutes and hopefully, we will get three points tomorrow," he said.
With East Bengal out of the Playoff contention and nothing to lose, this could bring the best out of them. Also, after a 1-3 loss to arch rivals ATK Mohun Bagan in their last clash and a below par showing, they might have something to prove in the ISL in their remaining fixtures.
They are ninth in the table and one of their big reasons for it has been their goal-scoring record, which has been poor with just 16 goals. It is the worst in the tournament so far, and with NorthEast having one of the best attacking records this season, the Red and Golds' defence will be tested to the hilt.
"That's the best time to see what your players are made of; when it's a real test. It's easy when you're winning games. To play for this club (East Bengal), you have to be able to roll your sleeves up," assistant coach Tony Grant said.