Kerala Blasters host NorthEast United in an ISL clash on Saturday, in coach Eelco Schattorie and captain Bartholomew Ogbeche's first games against their former club, with both sides desperate to arrest worrying runs of form.
NorthEast have just two wins in their last eight games, with no wins in their last four games. They were well beaten in their last two games as well, with 3-0 and 2-0 losses against ATK and Bengaluru FC respectively.
The Blasters, on the other hand, haven't won since beating ATK 2-1 on opening day. They've had four draws and four losses since then, and Schattorie will demand a reaction from his side, after a chastening 3-1 loss to southern rivals Chennaiyin FC last week.
Kerala Blasters v NorthEast United: Match Information
Date: 28th December 2019
Kickoff: 7:30 pm IST
Live Stream: Star Sports Network and Hotstar
Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, Kochi
Kerala Blasters v NorthEast United: Team News
Eelco Schattorie knows he cannot keep chopping and changing, and that his best players need to take the field, especially with the Blasters having no wins in their last eight games.
Sahal Abdul Samad has got to start this game, and one would think he would take the place of Prasanth Karuthadathkuni. Rahul KP could also come back into the side to take Seityasen Singh's place.
Robert Jarni still has a big concern over the fitness of his talismanic striker Asamoah Gyan, and it is unlikely that NorthEast will take undue risk over the fitness of Gyan if he is not 100% ready to take the field.
Federico Gallego, though, returned to action in the Highlanders' last game against Bengaluru FC, and after a sharp display in the minutes he had, the Uruguayan could be in line for his first start of the season.
Kerala Blasters v NorthEast United: Probable Lineups
Kerala Blasters: TP Rehenesh, Mohammad Rakip, Raju Gaikwad, Vlatko Drobarov, Jessel Carneiro, Jeakson Singh, Mario Arques, Sahal Abdul Samad, Seityasen Singh, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Raphael Messi Bouli
NorthEast United FC: Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Reagan Singh, Kai Heerings, Wayne Vaz, Nim Dorjee Tamang, Jose Leudo, Lalengmawia, Federico Gallego, Redeem Tlang, Martin Chaves, Panagiotis Triadis
Kerala Blasters v NorthEast United: ISL Form Guide
Kerala Blasters: L-D-D-D-L
NorthEast United: L-L-D-D-W
Kerala Blasters v NorthEast United Head-to-Head
NorthEast are actually one of the rare sides in the ISL who don't have a positive head-to-head record against the Blasters, with half the meetings ending in victories for the side from Kochi.
Last season, the two sides played out a draw in Kochi in the last league game for both sides. The game in Guwahati was a thriller, with NorthEast scoring two injury-time goals to seal a comeback 2-1 win.
Kerala Blasters wins: 5
NorthEast United wins: 3
Kerala Blasters v NorthEast United Prediction
Both sides don't seem to be very high on confidence and are conceding plenty of goals. But there hasn't been enough quality going forward, especially for a NorthEast team without Gyan.
Prediction: Kerala Blasters 1-1 NorthEast United