Robbie Fowler’s SC East Bengal take on an undefeated NorthEast United FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Saturday night. Gerard Nus’ side have been lionhearts in the season so far. They beat a much vaunted Mumbai City FC and then came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Kerala Blasters. The challenge against East Bengal will be different though, as it is a team that is smarting from two consecutive losses and will look to make amends. Here are five mini-battles within the game that you should keep an eye on tonight-
Khassa Camara vs Matti Steinmann
Camara has been the midfield lynchpin for NorthEast United so far. He has been instrumental in initiating attacking transitions as well as screening his back four like a rock when required. For SC East Bengal, Matti Steinmann has been the only saving grace till now with his application in the middle of the pitch and ability to find players further forward with quick incisive passing. The battle between these two midfielders may well end up deciding the result of the match tonight.
Luis Machado vs Scott Neville
Machado has been a little hot and cold so far. Although he has shown glimpses of his ability, it hasn’t yet come together for him in the final third. This might be the match where he announces himself to the ISL but standing in his way would be Scott Neville. The 31-year-old Australian will have to draw on all his experience to contain Machado down the left side of the Highlanders attack. In the absence of captain Daniel Fox, the onus would be on him to produce a strong performance that will make the others around him better.
Jeje vs Dylan Fox
This just might be the match where we finally see Jeje Lalpekhlua make his first start of the season. Coming off the back of long-term injury, the Mizo Sniper will be looking to make up for lost time and provide some inspiration to Robbie Fowler’s side. Meanwhile, Dylan Fox has been one of the top 3 defenders in the season so far and has looked incredibly calm when faced with difficult situations. He has been a big reason why Northeast have been solid against set-pieces and alongside Benjamin Lambot, has been assured with the ball at his feet. This is going to be one interesting battle for sure.
Anthony Pilkington vs Ashutosh Mehta
Stand-in captain Anthony Pilkington hasn’t really fired till now for the Red and Golds but his unarguable pedigree should make his battle with right back Ashutosh Mehta an interesting one. More so because Mehta, who has been one of the best defenders in the league so far, will surely be up for the challenge of facing a former premier league player. Whether the Irishman gets any joy down the left will most likely determine if SC East Bengal can find their first goal of the season.
Ninthoinganba Meetei vs Narayan Das
Narayan Das has struggled so far in the league. Coming into the side from Odisha FC, he has found the going tough amidst a lot of defensive uncertainty and the new management. On the other hand, Ninthoi Meetei has been absolutely superlative under Gerard Nus who has given him the freedom to express himself fully down the right wing. The 19-year-old was rested for the last game against FC Goa, coming on only in the second half, and should be charged up to make a mark against the Kolkata giants.