NorthEast United FC will aim for a fresh start under a new coaching set-up as they face FC Goa in a Hero Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Saturday.
After earning only four points from seven matches, NE United sacked Joao de Deus Pires and roped in former Chelsea FC manager Avram Grant as technical advisor.
The Israeli, who took London-based Chelsea to the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2008 has already joined the club and there is genuine belief that a turnaround is possible, starting with their home tie against Goa.
“The mood has changed (in the dressing room) with arrival of the new (technical) advisor. The boys are geared up and ready for tomorrow’s match,” goalkeeping coach Joseph Siddy on Friday said during the pre-match media interaction.
With three home matches in a row against FC Goa (January 6), ATK (January 12) and Chennaiyin FC (January 19), the conditions are ideal for the former Ghana national team coach to turn things around.
“It will help the team with the new advisor. His experience and coaching style will motivate us and will give us the confidence to do well in future matches,” said Siddy.
It may not be all that easy with FC Goa as their opposition on Saturday. The Goans showed remarkable spirit to snatch a point against ATK in their previous game which got delayed and started at 10.45 PM due to their late arrival.
FC Goa are placed fourth with 13 points from seven matches and will return to the top of the table should they score a comfortable victory.
“All the teams are well balanced. They are equal and it’s the small details which make the difference in each game,” said FC Goa chief coach Sergio Lobera, unwilling to take their poorly-performing rivals lightly.
Much of FC Goa’s chances will depend on the form of Spanish striker Ferran Corominas, who is now the leading goalscorer with nine goals. Coach Lobera admitted that Corominas is a special player but continued to stress on the collective strength of his side.
The young Spanish coach once again fielded the same team in Kolkata as in previous matches with skipper Laxmikant Kattimani starting in goal. The Goan keeper has put in some good performances after a shaky start to the campaign. He will start in goal in Guwahati.
Goan defender Ali Mohamed has come into his own and has forged a partnership with Bruno Pinheiro in the heart of the Goan defence. The duo is likely to start together once more although Lobera may be tempted to rotate his squad due to the packed fixture schedule.
Sergio Juste and Chinglensana Singh are ideal replacements for both central defenders.
Seriton Ferandes and Narayan Das will continue either side of the defence while Amey Ranawade and Mandar Rao Dessai can be used as replacements.