Unbeaten in their last two matches, an upbeat Delhi Dynamos take on table toppers NorthEast United in their first home game of the Indian Super League football on Saturday.
Delhi had begun their campaign with an impressive 3-1 win over defending champions Chennaiyin FC in Chennai before playing out a goalless draw at Kochi against Kerala Blasters to collect four points from two matches.
Brazillian Marcelo Pereira was the star against Chennaiyin as he scored two goals in that match. There was a drop in form for Delhi in the match against Kerala and they would now aim for a win in their first home game — the first also for head coach Gianluca Zambrotta.
Zambrotta may have to face with the prospect of more people cheering the rival team than his side on Saturday as the Northeasterners residing here will turn up in large numbers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium but he is unfazed. “It (fans turning up) is good for football. I am also hoping that more fans of Delhi Dynamos will come tomorrow to watch the match,” Zambrotta said at pre-match press conference.
Asked how his game plan would be against NorthEast United on Saturday, he said, “My plan will be 11 players playing defensive as well as attacking football.”
Zambrotta will have a few issues though as his first choice goalkeeper Antonio Doblas suffered an injury in the match against Kerala and was replaced by Manipuri Soram Poiren. The Spaniard is unlikely to start. The status of central defender Anas Edathodika, who suffered injury before the start of the season, is also not certain though the good news was that marquee player Florent Malouda was back at the starting line-up in the last match.
NorthEast, on the other hand, would look to maintain their impressive run in the league, having beaten Kerala (1-0), FC Goa (2-0) and FC Pune City (1-0) while losing to Mumbai City FC (0-1).
Head coach Nelo Vingada knows that his side will get a good support from the crowd, but he said Saturday’s match would be the toughest for his side so far in the league. “Delhi are a strong side and they have quality players. They beat Chennaiyin in Chennai and then drew with Kerala. They have big players like Florent Malouda, so it will be a tough match tomorrow,” said the Portuguese, who is nicknamed
“For me, tomorrow’s match will be the most important and most difficult so far in the league for two reasons. First, Delhi are a strong and well organised side. Secondly, we are playing our fifth match in two weeks. It is harsh on us but we hope to beat Delhi tomorrow,” said Vingada who has coached the
national teams of Saudi Arabia and Jordan while also been the assistant coach of Under-20 World Cup winning Portugal team twice.
Asked if NorthEast could make it to their maiden semifinals this season, he said, “Look, the beginning has been good so far and out aim to be in the play-offs. But it is early days and we are in the semifinals yet and we cannot be complacent. There is not much of difference in the level of play among the eight teams and any team can beat any other team.”
NorthEast will be without defender Nirmal Chhetri who was sent off in the match against Kerala.