The Highlanders face Kerala Blasters in their last match of the league stage today at the Tilak Maidan Stadium. With their eyes set on the playoffs spot for the second time in their history, a win or a draw tonight will guarantee them a spot in the top 4. Whereas Kerala Blasters FC, who are looming in the tenth postion in the league table have just their pride to play for.
NORTHEAST UNITED FC
With five wins and four draws, NorthEast United are still unbeaten in their last nine games. They have 30 points from 19 matches so far and are on the verge of qualifying for the playoffs for the second time in their history. Just a point here will confirm the third spot in the playoffs for the Highlanders. Then, FC Goa and Hyderabad FC will take on each other on sunday to fight it out for the fourth spot.
The attacking trio of Gallego, Machado and Brown have been in fine form for the Highlanders. A probable return of Gallego to the starting line up today will enhance their chances considerably.
“They are a good team. They have a lot of talented players and good foreigners too. They are a quality team so we have to prepare accordingly. It is going to be a difficult game and we must not take this match lightly. We understand the importance of this game, so we have to give everything,” Highlanders interim head coach Khalid Jamil said in the Pre-match conference.
KERALA BLASTERS FC
Kerala Blasters have found themselves struggling in the bottom half of the table after just winning thrice and losing eight games so far in the season. They come to this game on the back of a 1-1 draw against Chennaiyin FC last Sunday.
Their defense has been a major concern as they've let in 34 goals in 19 matches so far. Contributions of Gary Hooper who has scored 5 goals alongside 4 assists and Jordan Murray with 7 goals and an assist remains a plus. Among Indians Rahul KP with three goals and Sahal Abdul Samad with 3 assists have been bright sparks for them.
With nothing less than their pride to play for today, Kerala will miss the services of Facundo Pereyra and Sahal abdul Samad due to injuries.
“…They have to win and they do have more pressure but for us it is an opportunity to sign off from the league on a high. We are not thinking about what they have to do, we are thinking about us. We have injuries too but we will be concentrating on their weaknesses and our strengths,” Kerala Blasters FC’s interim head coach Ishfaq Ahmed said ahead of the game.
All said and done, this is a wonderful opportunity for the Highlanders to write their fate themselves. A guaranteed nail-biting match for the Highlanders' faithfuls, it remains to be seen how well the team handles all the pressure in the game tonight.
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