Will NorthEast United miss the bus again?
From among the eight clubs in the Hero Indian Super League, NorthEast United FC are the only team who haven´t tasted success.
They have had some inspiring victories, they´ve even got off to a solid start in the ISL, but for all their effort and support, NorthEast United have never made it to the semi-finals in four attempts. They are the lone team to have such a record, but if you looked at their start in the ISL this season, many fans believed the wait would end.
Not anymore. As the race for the play-off hots up, Eelco Schattorie´s men are holding the final playoff ticket - the fourth position in the standings. They have accumulated 23 points from 14 games, largely thanks to a good start to the season, but amidst fitness concerns and other selection issues, NorthEast are without a win in four matches.
The dip in form is a major concern as they have registered only one win in their last six games. “We need to work very hard and get the results. It´s not that we just need to depend on certain qualities. It´s not as easy as you are now in a position where it gets difficult to reach your goal having come so close. Now we need to win every game,” said Schattorie.
NorthEast United are just below third-placed FC Goa, who have 25 points. With Jamshedpur FC and ATK, both with 20 points each, close on their heels, every point will matter.
“I hope that ATK and Jamshedpur lose all their games, with all due respect. I want the teams below us to lose as the top four will be qualifying for the playoffs,” said the Dutch coach.
With two teams breathing down their neck, it has become crucial for NorthEast to win their remaining games. An aiding factor for them in their final push for the playoffs could be the teams they are facing in their last four fixtures.
Delhi Dynamos, Mumbai City, FC Pune City, and Kerala Blasters are up next on the fixture list for NorthEast and it should be noted that apart from Mumbai, the rest of the sides have little or no chance of making it to the playoffs. Not that points will be easy to get as Delhi´s draw against FC Goa on Monday suggested that even the lower-ranked teams will make life difficult for the playoff aspirants.
Can Schattorie do what no other coach has done before with NorthEast? Can they hold on to their playoff ticket or will they falter in the final few rounds just like the third season? The next four matches will provide all the answers.
NorthEast United have never made it to the semi-finals in four attempts. They are the lone team to have such a record, but if you looked at their start in the ISL this season, many fans believed the wait would end.