14:30 GMT, Saturday 10th February, JRD Tata Sports Complex (Jamshedpur, India), Sab TV UK
Steve Coppell’s men are well on their way to a playoff spot as they sit comfortably in the number four spot in the Indian Super League.
Their opponents in the match on Saturday, though, are experiencing a bit of turnaround themselves and will not make it easy for them.
NorthEast United lost by a single Marcelinho goal in the 86th minute to Pune on Wednesday and this kind of situations can take a toll on the player's confidence, especially when you eight losses and three wins. However, Avram Grant’s men will take heart from the fact that the match looked evenly balanced until that fateful goal.
On Saturday, the Highlanders will visit Jamshedpur and will want to take confidence with a win over the Men of Steel.
But Jamshedpur has had their unique story as well this season, taking only two wins in the first nine matches, before finally hitting a rhythm and winning four of their last five matches.
Last Time Out
Mumbai City FC 1-2 Jamshedpur FC (Indian Super League)
Mumbai turned out to be unlucky against Jamshedpur as Coppell’s men put out another defensively solid performance.
Happy to give up space to Mumbai in their own half, their attacking midfielders and forwards were given the responsibility to press Mumbai.
This helped the home side to change gears rapidly and bounce on the counter, exposing the space between Mumbai’s defence.
In fact, it’s exactly the move that led Farukh Chowdhury to move past Gerson Vieira and pull off a miscued shot that ping-ponged off Mumbai defenders before ending up at the back of the goal.
After that goal, Mumbai came charging at Subrata Pal’s goal and despite dominating the game for the next 50 minutes and creating 10 chances in between, they could only score one from Everton Santos’s header in the 79th minute.
Unfortunately for Mumbai, Jamshedpur hit back with a flurry of attacks led by Trindade Goncalves and Jerry Mawihmingthanga, which ultimately led to Bikash Jairu scoring his first for the debutants in the 84th minute.
NorthEast United 0-1 FC Pune City (Indian Super League)
This was a hotly contested match which saw Pune enjoying the bulk of the possession but with NorthEast pressing up high at every chance.
Both the sides put up a formidable defense with especially standout performances by the defensive midfielders. The fact that neither side has more than three shots on goal is a testament to the fact.
However, the home side could not capitalise on their chances as Marcinho, Danilo Lopes and Lalrindika Ralte all came close to scoring.
Avram Grant would have been left to rue their missed chances as Marcinho gave the ball away in the 86th minute, which spurted a counter-attack from Pune, teeing off Marcelinho, who tucked the ball in the back of the net with the outside of his foot, beating TP Rehenesh.
Up until that point, Rehenesh and his defenders had done a good job of keeping Pune out and denying them of any credible chances. But that late goal sealed the deal as the Highlanders saw themselves lose another match.
Jamshedpur FC Lineup
Coppell tried out Andre Bikey in the holding midfielder role to make way for Wellington Priori’s attacking tendencies.
He also left Trindade Goncalves and Kervens Belfort on the bench and it will be interesting to see if they continue with the same starting eleven.
NorthEast United FC Lineup
Halicharan Narzary might be injured as he was left out of the starting squad. Lalrindika Ralte took his spot and might make an appearance again.
Key Battle: Wellington Priori (Jamshedpur FC) vs Rowllin Borges (NorthEast United FC)
Former teammates will take on each when Wellington Priori and Rowllin Borges meet on Saturday.
Priori played for NorthEast United in the 2016 season and returned to ISL this season to turn out for Jamshedpur FC.
Originally a defensive midfielder, Priori turned out in a more advanced role for the Men of Steel in their last outing.
Displacing Trindade Goncalves from the number ten role, the former NEUFC player’s tendency to move forward, saw him being awarded a promotion up the field.
Considering that he has already scored and provided once in his five outings, he should not be much of a disappointment. His direct running, physical attributes and knack for the goal make him a dangerous player to have in front of the box.
That makes Borges’s job all the harder. He has been one of the best defensive midfielders in the league this season, raking up 21 interceptions in 11 outings.
In the battle against Priori, Borges will be almost evenly matched, considering he himself is a six-footer. As such, he will look to scupper Jamshedpur’s ability to create attacks through Priori.
Jamshedpur running on luck
The ISL debutants might be perched on the fourth spot in the league standings, but they haven’t had consistent performers in front of the goal.
Despite their four wins in the last five games, the team has 14 goals scored by eight different players. Only Izu Azuka and Trindade Goncalves (3 goals and 4 goals respectively) have more than one goal to their name.
It’s strange that for a team that has been winning, they do not have consistent performers in their starting lineup.
In addition to that, they have had help from opposition players and a bit of luck, finding goals in crunch moments through pure serendipity.
Lack of finishing in final third hurting Highlanders
The Highlanders lack of finishing has come back to hurt them again.
After scoring for three matches on the trot, Grant’s men failed to find the back of the net against Pune. They have plenty of clear chances to put the game to bed but a goalless tie till the 86th minute gave Pune enough confidence to keep charging for a goal.
Had NorthEast been leading at that point of the time, Pune might have been a little less enthusiastic about pressing Marcinho at the half-way line, which ultimately started the attack.
The Guwahati-based side needs to take the game by the scruff of the neck and make the most of their chances. Blowing away opportunities has hurt them severely this season and might heap more misery on them.
Prediction: Jamshedpur FC 1-0 NorthEast United
Jamshedpur might just edge NorthEast in this fixture considering their better defensive and scoring records.
While the Highlanders will maintain an outside chance of outperforming away from home, Jamshedpur are likely to put up walls around their goal.