ISL 2018-19 Semi-finals Preview: NorthEast United or Bengaluru FC, Who Will Win First?

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Bengaluru FC
Bengaluru FC Sunil Chettri with team mates (Credits Indian Express)

The 2018-19 edition of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) has been an intriguing spectacle with many boisterous goals scored and loud celebrations done for. However, the competition has reached its business end with NorthEast United welcoming table toppers Bengaluru FC in the first semi-final’s first leg.

The coveted fixture is scheduled to take place at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium of Guwahati on Thursday. Here is the complete preview of the ISL semi-final between NEUFC and BFC.

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The road to Semi Final

NorthEast United

The hosts will be more euphoric of the two, having made it to the first ever playoffs in the league’s history. Things have been going their way from the very start, with the Highlanders discovering key players at most departments. Rowllin Borges, Bartholomew Ogbeche, and Mato Grgic, among others, have made their presence felt with impressive performances for the team, helping them with a Top 4 for most of the season.

Although their attack has been imposing, it is the NorthEast’s wall-like defence that has helped them with a place in the semi-final. In fact, NEUFC had one of the best defences in the league, having conceded the least number of goals (18).

Having made it to playoffs for the first time, the team would be eager to take their performances one step further and enter the finals. However, the home game against arguably the league’s best outfits won’t be easy.

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC entered the season with much nervousness and a new head coach in Carles Cuadrat. There was fair amount of skepticism and speculation whether the team could emerge from the heartbreak in the finals and reach the highs they achieved last year.

What turned out was a majestic performance from the Men in Blue, almost similar to the epic 2017-18 ISL season. In fact, Bengaluru was unbeaten as late as January, topping the table throughout. However, just when it felt that the team is indomitable, they endured a tough time towards the end of the group stage.

Probably the month-long international break had broken their momentum, but BFC went on to lose 4 games. The biggest of them all was a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of fifth-placed Jamshedpur FC. The fact that the big defeat came in the team’s last group match is what should be a worrying sign for Carles Cuadrat.

Although they have somehow managed to cling on to their top spot, Bengaluru must find a way to reinvigorate the Miku-Chhetri combination that once made them so lethal going forward.

NorthEast United vs Bengaluru FC: Team News

NorthEast United

NEUFC was dealt with a major blow in their bid to win the ISL playoffs after Mislav Komorski was ruled out earlier with an injury. His absence will leave a significant void in the host’s star defence. To make matters worse, his replacement, Gurwinder Singh, was sent off with a red card in the last game against Kerala Blasters.

NorthEast United would, as a result, have to play the home game with utmost caution and try to avoid handing a precious away goal to the visitors.

Bengaluru FC

Although BFC doesn’t face a similar situation as their opponents, they still have one significant change on their bench. Australian midfielder Erik Paartalu will not be with his team this season with Bengaluru managing to rope in Alex Barrera as a replacement in the nick of time. There are no major changes elsewhere.

NorthEast United vs Bengaluru FC: Probable Lineups

NorthEast United (4-2-3-1): Pawan Kumar, Mato Grgic, Keegan Pereira, Janeiler Rivas, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Reagan Singh, Rowllin Borges, Redeem Tlang, Federico Gallego, Panagiotis Triadis, Bartholomew Ogbeche

Bengaluru FC (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Juanan, Albert Serran, Rahul Bheke, Nishu Kumar, Dimas Delgado, Harmanjot Khabra, Udanta Singh, Xisco Hernandez, Sunil Chhetri, Miku

NorthEast United vs Bengaluru FC: Form Guide

NorthEast United: D D W D L

Bengaluru FC: L W L L D

NorthEast United vs Bengaluru FC: Head-to-Head

NorthEast United: 0

Bengaluru FC: 3

Draw: 1

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NorthEast United vs Bengaluru FC: Predictions

Things are trickier for both the sides in the ISL semifinals. Even though they have a superior head-to-head record, Bengaluru doesn’t have the momentum no their side. Things look favourable for NorthEast United, who have the home advantage and a depleted but still effective defence. The hosts will try to sit back and force through a clean chit. This, along with an out-of-form Bengaluru FC casts a perfect spell for a draw.

Predicted Score – NorthEast United 1:1 Bengaluru FC

NorthEast United vs Bengaluru FC: Schedule

Date: 7 March 2019

Kickoff Time: 7:30 PM IST

NorthEast United vs Bengaluru FC: Venue

Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati

NorthEast United vs Bengaluru FC: Live Streaming

The semi-final between NorthEast United and Bengaluru FC will be broadcasted by Star Sports Network. The epic battle will also be streamed live on Hotstar.

For more updates on Indian Super League, stay tuned to KreedOn, the voice of Indian sports.

Monish Gadiya is a Pune-based sports author and designer at KreedOn. He is a thorough tech-enthusiast and believes that innovation is the answer to the problems prevalent in the society. Monish graduated from University of Pune with a degree in civil engineering before pursuing a post-graduate diploma course in intellectual property rights. A die-hard football fan, he has represented his college at various football competitions.

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