Back in contention for a playoff berth after a hat-trick of wins, a buoyant NorthEast United FC will look to enter the top four when they face FC Goa in an Indian Super League fixture on Thursday. The Highlanders had found themselves in the wrong half of the table and there was uncertainty surrounding their playoff hopes after the departure of Gerard Nus.
But three wins on the trot under interim coach Khalid Jamil has given them a new lease of life and they will hope to prove their credentials once again at the Tilak Maidan stadium. Both sides have accumulated 21 points after 14 games with fifth-placed NEUFC just below their opponents.
While NEUFC have been unbeaten in their last four games, Goa have not suffered a loss in their previous seven matches, making this an encounter to savour for the neutrals. "We have analysed them," said NEUFC assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew.
"We have to approach the game well, put our best effort and try to win." Under Jamil, NEUFC won have three matches in a row, a first for them. "I would like to give credit to coach Khalid, the technical director, the coaching staff and all the players who have done very well. We haven't changed anything," Kharsyntiew said.
"We have just strengthened our attacking and defensive principles and that's the only thing. We've been trying to play creative football." The two sides played out a 1-1 draw earlier in the season and Goa coach Juan Ferrando is expecting NEUFC to come hard at them.
"The (NorthEast) players are happy, they are enjoying every game, every minute," he said. "The ambiance in their dressing room will be nice. They won the difficult games. The players are free on the pitch. They have gained a lot of positives." Goa will also miss the services of Edu Bedia (suspended) and Brandon Fernandes (injured), making their task difficult.
Ferrando admitted he's feeling the pressure of the playoff race. "I feel pressure all the time. It's good for the Indian league because more or less there is a difference of 3-4 points maximum between teams," he said. "It's good for us because we aren't relaxed. Every game is important and our mentality is to get the three points."