Indian Super League: North East United Hope To Justify The Crowd Support By Reaching the Semifinals

After finishing at the bottom of the table in the inaugural season, and then ending up in fifth place and missing out on a semi final berth by just 2 points last season, expectations and the pressure from the fans have reached the boiling point for North East United FC

A side with a massive fan following across the country, the team is yet to repay their fans with quality performances. And with a obscure transfer policy of retaining only 5 players from a promising previous campaign, the pressure is at an all time high on the John Abraham-owned squad. The trend over the past two seasons suggests that the home side in the inaugural match goes on to win the tournament, the side representing the Seven Sisters would be banking on more than just that to get them past the group stages, with a host of local young players and a vastly experienced coach in Nelo Vingada at the helm.

Squad Analysis

Goalkeepers: TP Rehenesh, Subrata Paul, Wellington Gomes

NEUTD FC has plenty of strength and experience when it comes to men guarding the goal. The side have retained their young Indian keeper TP Rehenesh and have added the experience of former India number one Subrata Paul and Brazilian born Wellington Gomes to the ranks. While Rehenesh has been the mainstay for the past two seasons, he will face tougher competition this time around with Subrata Paul fighting for his place in the starting eleven. Brazilian Gomes, helps improve the team’s squad depth.

Defenders: Salam Ranjan Singh, Nirmal Chettri, Shouvik Ghosh, Robin Gurung, Reagan Singh, Mailson Alves, Gustavo Lazzaretti

Coach Nelo Vingada would want his side to be defensively strong and compliment a youthful and pacy midfield as he looks forward to the team vying for a berth in the semis. In the likes of Nirmal Chetri, Shouvik Ghosh , Robin Gurung, Salam Rangan Singh and Reagan Singh, NEUTD FC has a quality Indian defensive line-up and the perfect combination of Brazilians in the pair of Mailson Alves and Gustavo Lazzaretti to compliment that. 32 year old Lazzaretti, a well-traveled and experienced defender, is a former Chelsea man and has 33 first team appearances and a goal under his belt. Mailson, already an ISL winner with Chennayin FC last season will be hoping to strike perfect partnership with his fellow Brazilian as he looks forward to a solid season at the back.

Midfielders: Didier Zokora, Fanai Lalrempuia, Fabio Neves, Holicharan Narzary, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Katsumi Yusa, Koffi Christian N’dri, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rowllin Borges, Seityasen Singh, Wellington Priori, Romaric

NEUTD FC boasts of a quality midfield line-up with the perfect mix of internationals and young Indian talents who would be gunning to make their mark in the big stage. The name that stands out is their marquee signing Didier Zokora, whom they have roped in from FC Pune City, where he made a good impact last season. The former Spurs and Sevilla man who can boast of League Cup and Copa Del Rey winners medals with the respective clubs is going to be crucial for Nelo Vingada’s squad as he mans the midfield with former national team teammate Romaric, another new signing for the club.

Katsumi Yusa could prove to be an important signing for NEUFC in the heart of the midfield
Katsumi Yusa could prove to be an important signing for NEUFC in the heart of the midfield

The team also signed Mohun Bagan man Katsumi Yusa for the season, who with his quick-witted wing play and knowledge of football in the country would prove to be a big asset as the season progresses. Apart from the International talent, the squad also has exciting Indian youngsters in Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rowlin Borges, Holicharan Narzary and Seityasen Singh. Lallianzuala, a graduate from the Liverpool Academy in India is one the most exciting players at present and after breaking Bhaichung Bhutia’s twenty-year-old record by scoring twice on his senior debut. The fans would be expecting good things from the Mizo youngster. The team would be backing much on pacy wing-play as they try to exploit the pace of the Indian youngsters and Katsumi as they play off a steady midfield presence in Didier Zokora.

Forwards: Emiliano Alfaro, Nicolas Velez, Sasha Aneff, Robert Cullen, Sumeet Passi

Putting the ball into the back of the net is an aspect where the North East outfit has struggled in the past two seasons and after impressing everyone with his performances and 5 goals in 14 matches all hopes would surely be pinned on Argentinean striker Nico Velez as he goes into this new season. Although a sure-shot starting eleven contender for Vingada, Velez has made much of his impact coming off the bench last season. Uruguayan Emiliano Alfaro would be another one vying for a place in the striking setup. The striker boasts of an impressive 21 goals in 27 appearances on loan at Uruguayan outfit Liverpool last season, a stat that would surely entice to his coach to rethink his striking choices.

Other options would include Japanese Robert Cullen, Uruguayan Sasha Aneff and Indian youngster Sumeet Passi, who failed to make much of an impact in his recent stint during India’s win over Puerto Rico. So, choosing the starting strike force would be an important point of focus for the Portuguese coach, with only a handful of options left. A side full of youthful exuberance and experienced Internationals, lot of hopes and aspirations are pinned on North East United FC as they aim to book their maiden place in the Semi Finals of the competition.

Manager: Nelo Vingada

With a career spanning three decades and plenty of miles and honours under his belt, the Portuguese, dubbed as ‘The Professor’, would be the force behind North East United’s bid for a berth in the semis. After former coach Sergio Farias left his post abruptly, two months into the job, to manage Thai outfit Suphanburi FC, the side didn’t waste much time and got the experienced Vingada on board.

An assistant to former Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz, he took the Portugal U20 side to two World Cup triumphs in 1989 and 1991. He then went on to manage the Saudi Arabian national side as he them helped win the Asian Cup in 1996 and qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. His CV boasts of plenty of trophies and silverwares while on his travels across clubs in Egypt Jordan and Korea. Even as recent as last season, he took Portuguese outfit Maritimo to the Portuguese League Cup Finals where they lost to Benfica

Written By Guest Author Rohit Roy. Follow the author on twitter

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