NorthEast United FC, the most exciting and enthusiastic side of Indian Super League, are yet to make it past the group stage since its inauguration.
NorthEast United consist of the Seven Sister States, which are considered as the pool of Indian football talents. Bollywood superstar John Abraham owns the team and concentrated on configuring a side based on local talents instead of bigger names of Indian football. He has stuck to his philosophy yet again despite finishing last in inaugural campaign and narrowly missing out a semifinal berth after a fifth place finish.
NorthEast United Team Update:
The Highlanders have replaced Cesar Farias with former Portugal national team manager Nelo Vingada. They have added a few new faces like veteran goalkeeper Subrata Pal who previously featured for Mumbai City FC , defender Nirmal Chettri and Shouvik Ghosh who plied their trades from Kerala Blasters and Delhi Dynamos respectively, Fanai Lalrempuia from FC Pune City and young winger Holicharan Narzary who previously played for FC Goa. However, Lallianzuala Chhangte, the wonderkid of Indian football, is set to feature in his maiden ISL campaign along with talented striker Sumit Passi, midfielder Rowllin Borges, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and young defender Salam Ranjan Singh. Otherwise, custodian Rehenesh TP, defender duo Robin Gurung, Reagan Singh and winger Seityasen Singh have been retained.
Among foreign recruits, they have brought in former Ivory Coast midfielder Didier Zokora as marquee who has previous experience with FC Pune City. Argentine striker Nicolás Vélez has been retained and defender Mailson Alves joined in from last year’s champions Channaiyin FC. Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa, a famous name in Indian football circuit, is set to participate in his maiden ISL campaign whereas, Zokora is set to reunite with his former Sevilla and national team midfield partner Romaric. Brazilian goalkeeper Wellington Lima, defender Gustavo and defensive midfielder Wellington Priori have joined the squad along with forwards Sasha Aneff and Emiliano Alfaro of Uruguay and Robert Cullen of Japan.
The Highlanders are the youngest as well as most energetic side of the tournament. Also, they have increased their squad depth this year and have good enough backups in every position. Their home support at Guwahati Stadium has been majestic which will motivate them to make it past the group stage in their third attempt.
Even though they have formed a much better squad than previous campaigns under an experienced manager who has been highly successful in his coaching career, NorthEast United are lacking big names and on field experience that are very much crucial in order to make it to the knockouts of a highly competitive tournament.
Where They Can Finish:
The Highlanders are the ‘underdogs’ of the campaign and they themselves are well aware of that. If they find momentum early in the season, NorthEast United are definitely capable of qualifying for semis in order to fulfill their primary objective of ISL 2016.
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