GUWAHATI, March 6 - For the first time in five years NorthEast United FC have managed to make it to the play-offs of the Indian Super League (ISL) and the side would very much want to make their historic appearance count.
It would be interesting to see what Eelco Schattorie has up his sleeve as they face Bengaluru FC in the first play-off at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here tomorrow. Bengaluru FC have been the outstanding team for the second successive year. Despite an indifferent second half, Bengaluru still topped the league table. NorthEast United managed to grab the fourth spot.
�They�re (Bengaluru FC) a fantastic club. I think that they are the best club in India. That means we will be facing good players. We played them twice and both times we played really well. They got away here in the last minute of extra time. In their home, we should have won,� said Schattorie. NorthEast almost tasted victory in Guwahati, until Chencho Gyletshen played spoilsport with an equaliser in added time. While playing away in Bengaluru, NorthEast were unlucky not to secure a point.
�I think the last 10-12 games, I�m trying to fit a puzzle and I�m frustrated. We have only 16 players, we got another red card in the last game and we have some other issues. I wish I had a little more choice going into this game,� he said.
It was a second-string team that lost heavily to Jamshedpur FC in Bengaluru�s last league game and Carles Cuadrat will not be too bothered by the loss. They still managed to finish top of the league and Cuadrat is aware that it all counts for nothing if they do not make it through the play-offs.
�NorthEast have their weapons and so do we. Everyone tells me we had some problems against them, but they got one point and we got four. It will be a good game with a lot of passion, which is great for football,� said Cuadrat.
According to current form and past record, Bengaluru will be the favourites but Cuadrat knows he cannot take anything for granted.
�We have got 74 points in two league campaigns (2017-18 and 2018-19) and the next team on the list is FC Goa with 64 points. But I have to tell you that it counts for nothing if we lose in the play-offs or the final. That is the rule of the competition and we accept that,� said the Spanish coach.
NorthEast United have never won against Bengaluru FC in four head-to-head clashes while Bengaluru have notched three wins. The Highlanders will have to beat the best if they are to inch closer to the trophy.