NorthEast United FC will be keen to start their Indian Super League 2018-19 campaign on a positive note when they face FC Goa in the Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Monday.
For four successive years, NorthEast United FC have tried but failed to win a place in the play-offs. They have come close twice, and as the fifth edition of the ISL kicks off NorthEast will aim for better outing this time.
NorthEast United FC: The hosts will be playing under Eelco Schattorie who has been handed the reins.
Schattorie had come in as an assistant coach last season for NorthEast United FC after the departure of Joao de Deus. They now sport a completely different look with former PSG striker Bartholomew Ogbeche being their most notable signing.
The Nigerian international is expected to be their main threat up front and will look to improve their efficiency in front of goal.
Croatian duo of Mato Grgic and Mislav Komorski will marshal the defence with Rowllin Borges playing the anchor role in midfield.
FC Goa: FC Goa have a measure of continuity about them as head coach Sergio Lobera takes charge of the team for a second successive season
FC Goa, on the other hand, have a settled feel about them with most of their key players retained from last season's topscorer Ferran Corominas will be the main man upfront and will be supported by Miguel Palanca and Hugo Boumous.
Ahmed Jahouh will be the anchor man in midfield while Lenny Rodrigues and company look to complement the Moroccan.
Goa's defence had come under the scanner previous season and was their Achilles' heel. A prolific attack bailed them out on many occasions but Lobera will be keen to ensure they are more solid at the back this time around, without compromising on their attacking instinct.
FC Goa, as is their nature, will play a possession-based game and NorthEast United will look to exploit them on the counter. But how effective that will be remains to be seen. Monday promises to be exciting and intriguing.
Eelco Schattorie spoke about his team's record of a win and a draw against Goa, and said they'd look to improve on the record further.
"They (Both matches) were both based on certain weaknesses that we spotted in their team," Schattorie said.
"Hopefully, we can exploit them again. Having said that, we must remember that we have got a relatively new squad who will take time to get used to my methods whereas Goa have a more or less settled squad," he added.
Last season's fixtures between the teams were encouraging for NorthEast. They managed to get the better of Goa 2-1 when the teams faced each other in Guwahati, and in the reverse fixture, Schattorie's team managed to salvage a 2-2 draw.
Goa's Lobera on the other hand has marked defending as the area to work on for his team.
"We will definitely work on our defending this season. It is true that in order to improve on the defensive part of the team, we have to limit our attacking abilities slightly. But having the team we had last season, we broke so many scoring records. We have a team which is built to be offensive. I always prefer to win a match 5-2 than 1-0," said Lobera.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The two teams have locked horn twice and NorthEast FC have won one and drawn another.
HERE'S GOA'S 25-MAN SQUAD:
GKs: Lalthuammawia Ralte, Laxmikant Kattimani, Mohammad Nawaz
Defenders: Carlos Pena, Chinglensana Singh, Lalhmangaihsanga, Mohamed Ali, Nirmal Chettri, Saviour Gama, Mourtada Fall, Seriton Fernandes
Midfielders: Ahmed Jahouh, Brandon Fernandes, Edu Bedia, Hugo Boumous, Imran Khan, Jackichand Singh, Lenny Rodrigues, Mandar Rao Dessai, Miguel Fernandez, Pratesh Shirodkar, Princeton Rebello
Forwards: Ferran Corominas, Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh
HERE'S NorthEast United FC's 25-MAN SQUAD:
GKs: Gurmeet, Pawan Kumar, TP Rehenesh
Defenders: Gurwinder Singh, Keegan Pereira, Reagan Singh, Mato Grgic, Mislav Komorski, Pawan Kumar, Provat Lakra, Robert Lalthlamuana, Simrajeet Singh
Midfielders: Federico Gallego, Jose Leudo, Lalrempuia Fanai, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Nikhil Kadam, Redeem Tiang, Rowllin Borges, Rupert Nongrum
Forwards: Augustine Okrah, Bartholomew, Girik Khosla, Juan Mascia, Kivi Zhimomi