Opponent Watch - North East United
A team that had seriously underperformed in the previous seasons has been a breath of fresh air in the current Indian Super League campaign. Under Eelco Schattorie, North East United have impressed with their swashbuckling displays which sees the Highlanders sit comfortably in the top four with 16 points from 8 matches. Tonight, they face a Jamshedpur FC side at the Furnace that dismantled the reigning champions in their last encounter.
In a battle to consolidate a spot in the top four, tonight's clash has taken up prime importance as the campaign draws close to the December break. One more aspect that makes tonight's clash a must watch is that North East have won all four of their away games so far whereas Jamshedpur FC have not lost a single game at their fortress.
North East United are coming into this game on the back of a sensational comeback victory against Kerala Blasters where the side from Guwahati scored two injury time goals to notch all three points. Before that, the Highlanders got the better of FC Pune City in a 2 - 0 win which saw Schattorie's men display a professional performance.
The main threat for Jamshedpur FC tonight will be North East United's talisman and the league's joint top scorer, Bartholomew Ogbeche. The Nigerian striker has scored 8 goals in 8 matches so far and has been the most crucial cog in North East's wheels this campaign.
Ogbeche is a major threat in the box and can also run behind the defenders, making him a tough forward to mark. Add to that, his immense work rate has helped North East to maintain their perfect record on the road. Tiri will have his hands full when he will come up against the dangerous Ogbeche. The battle between one of the league's best defenders versus one of the league's most dangerous strikers is going to be a treat for the neutrals which also may well decide how the match will pan out.
The player that has played a perfectly supporting role to Ogbeche in the last few matches has been Juan Mascia. The Uruguayan attacker was heavily influential in the win over FC Pune City and also played a starring role against the Blasters - winning a penalty and then scoring a brilliant last-minute volley. Jamshedpur FC's defenders will have to watch out for Mascia's late runs into the box.
The aspect that has made North East United such a deadly time away from home is their work rate to grind out results and their ability to function as a well-drilled unit. Against Pune, the team was second best for large durations of the game but due to Pawan Kumar's heroics in goal and the attackers' clinical finishing, the Highlanders registered yet another victory.
Jamshedpur FC will have to match North East United toe to toe for their work rate and commitment. The defence cannot show anymore profligacy against an attack that has emerged as one of the best in the league. With two attacking sides going head to head, goals are guaranteed in this battle with a lot more than just three points at stake.