NorthEast United finished in the top half of the table thrice in the last six years but they made it to the play-offs only once
NorthEast United kick-off Round 6 of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) as one of the three unbeaten sides this season besides Bengaluru and Hyderabad, with a clash against Chennaiyin in the first of the two games on Sunday.
Last season, NorthEast had a similar unbeaten start, only to lose form afterwards and ended up well outside the play-off spots. However, head coach Gerard Nus feels that this time around, the Highlanders will be able to avoid a repeat of last year’s events.
“There are more players now who were not here last year. I see the opportunity to use those statistics (from last year) to prove to ourselves that we can do better.”
He added, “I don’t think it (unbeaten run) adds pressure but something that we need to feel proud of. The five games are already gone and now what matters is tomorrow’s game. We take every game as a final and that’s how we get something out of the game because all the teams are difficult and everybody wants to win.”
Chennaiyin enter the tie having suffered back-to-back defeats, with four points from as many games, and Nus refused to rule out any sort of threat from the southern side.
“Chennaiyin is going to be a really competitive side. We have seen how they fight. Even in the last game (2-1 defeat against Mumbai City), they didn’t get the result that they were working for but they definitely created chances and were dangerous. So we are going to expect a side that is going to play against us with this kind of commitment and intensity, and we have to be ready for it.
The former Ghana national team assistant coach admitted that his team needs to be mindful of Rafael Crivellaro.
“We know Crivellaro is a top player. If he has time, he can deliver the ball anywhere and create chances for his side. We will try to see that he doesn’t have the ball a lot and if he has the ball keep him under pressure. You never know what the lineup of the opponent is until around one hour before kickoff, but first of all we have to know what our identity is and we have to stick to our own philosophy.
“We have to be focused for 90 minutes no matter what the situation, result, or who plays. You need that consistency. With the ball, we have been good with possession but it’s about being consistent one game at a time. We have to be sure to minimise our mistakes. We have to also be prepared for something that you are not ready for, like set-pieces, and get the best from every situation,” he concluded.