NorthEast United face Kerala Blasters in their final match of the Indian Super League (ISL) group stage needing at least a point to confirm a spot in the playoffs.
Having played 19 matches, NorthEast and FC Goa have 30 points each while Hyderabad FC are on 28. Both Hyderabad and Goa have a goal difference of eight while NorthEast are on four.
A top-four finish would complete a remarkable turnaround for NorthEast ever since Khalid Jamil took over as head coach under whom NorthEast have taken 18 points. Only first-placed ATK Mohun Bagan (20) have more points in this period.
Kerala, meanwhile, have been on a barren run and lie second from last, but Jamil urged his side not to take their opponents lightly. “They (Kerala Blasters) are a good team. They have talented players and so we will have to prepare. It will be a difficult game. We shouldn’t take this match lightly. We must fight,” he said.
NorthEast might need just a point but Jamil was in no mood to settle for a draw. He stated that there wouldn’t be any change in their preparation. “We are not thinking about anything else. The preparations are the same. There are no changes in anything. The idea is to go there and give your best and have to be ready in all aspects,” he said.
A win or a draw against Kerala will stretch NorthEast’s unbeaten run under Jamil to nine games. Kerala are without a win in their last seven league games. With nothing but just pride to play for, interim coach Ishfaq Ahmed will be looking to end the season on a high.
“The matches are very similar to everyone. For us, we definitely want to win. They want to win. They have a little bit of extra pressure. For us, it’s another opportunity to sign off from the league on a high. We are not thinking about what they (NEUFC) want. We are thinking about us and what we have to do,” said Ahmed.