On a knife’s edge as far as their play-offs qualification is concerned, NorthEast United take on red-hot Delhi Dynamos in a do-or-die Indian Super League football match on Wednesday.
NorthEast were down and almost out in their last clash against Chennaiyin FC in Chennai until Shouvik Ghosh struck in the injury time for a 3-3 draw to win a crucial point and keep themselves in the race for a semi-final spot.
They are now at fifth spot with 15 points from 12 matches and they need to take full three points against Delhi from their penultimate league match and last home game at the Indian Gandhi Athletics Stadium. A loss will find themselves virtually out of the race for play-offs.
For Delhi, who are high on confidence after their 5-1 thrashing of bottom-placed FC Goa in their last match, a win will seal their place for the semifinals with a match left in hand. They are at second spot with 20 points from 12 matches.
Delhi can still make the semifinals even after losing but they would look to do the job itself instead of leaving that in the match on December 3 against table-toppers Mumbai City FC, who have already qualified for the semifinals.
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NorthEast head coach Nelo Vingada will have to do a balancing act with his squad selection as two of his players — Koffi Ndri (Romaric) and Nicolas Velez — are both on three bookings.
Another booking and both could miss NorthEast’s final league match against Kerala Blasters in Kochi. Fortunately for the hosts, defensive midfielder Rowlin Borges will return to the squad after serving a match suspension and Vingada could also restore Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa to the starting line-up.
Delhi head coach Gianluca Zambrotta predicted tomorrow’s match would be a difficult one.
“Unfortunately, we have not reached the semi-finals as yet. So we have to focus on our next game, which is against a very difficult team, and for this reason it’s very important to plan step by step,” he said.
Zambrotta indicated that he could give some of his overworked players a deserving rest.
“We need to look at our players’ conditions and recovery and as of now I have not planned anything tactical for the match against NorthEast,” he said.