Gianluca Zambrotta. (Getty Images)
New Delhi: Delhi Dynamos FC are expected to face a tough battle in their first home match of the season when they meet table-toppers NorthEast United FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Both teams have made excellent starts to their campaign in the current edition of the ISL, with the Dynamos starting off with a 3-1 win against defending champions Chennaiyin FC in their opening match before playing a goalless draw against Kerala Blasters FC to be placed fourth in the league standings with four points from two matches.
On the other hand, North-East United are currently at the top of the table with three wins and one loss from their four matches.
Going into the match, the hosts have the upper hand on paper after being unbeaten against the visitors in the past. In their last four face-offs, Delhi have won two and drew as many games against NorthEast United FC in the previous editions of the ISL.
"We are really excited for our first home game of the season. We've had some really exciting matches with NorthEast United in the past and I'm sure that having our home crowd behind us will help. The boys are all ready for a good game of football and it will be a hard fought contest," Dynamos head coach Gianluca Zambrotta said on the eve of the match.
Zambrotta also urged the Delhi fans to to turn up in impressive numbers and cheer the hosts. In the previous editions of the ISL, the Delhi fans have been outnumbered by NorthEast United supporters in the stands. As a result, despite it being a home match for the Dynamos, the atmosphere in the stadium is like an away tie for them.
NorthEast United enjoy great support in Delhi and Zambrotta feels that it's important for the home fans to match up to their opponents.
"Of course, we need the Delhi supporters and I am handing them a special invitation to attend. We need their support. In Kerala we played the last match in front of 60,000 supporters and it was not intimidating. For the players, it's encouraging to play in front of a nice atmosphere," the Italian World Cup winner said.
Delhi have four points from their first two away matches and Zambrotta said it's important to maintain balance as the schedule is tough.
"We had some difficulties against Kerala because the match came immediately after the Chennai match. We will try to do our best against NorthEast United. It's impossible to play at the same level all the time but the important thing is to have the players focused in attack and defence," he said.
NorthEast United coach Nelo Vingada also said it's important to focus on the recovery, especially after the last match where they played for almost an hour with just 10 men.
NorthEast United had the numerical disadvantage when defender Nirmal Chhetri was sent off but despite the setback, the league leaders regained the momentum to score a narrow victory against FC Pune City, who also had a player sent off in the second half.
"We played for one hour with 10 men. A lot of energy was spent but I believe our team's character and effort can make for a good performance," the Portuguese coach said.
"Since the beginning, we are seeing that all teams are improving. It's been an intense campaign for NorthEast and we have already played four games. But there are no excuses. We will play our best against a good team which is playing at home for the first time," he added.