NorthEast United FC is gearing up to face league shield winners, Mumbai City FC, in their highly-anticipated Indian Super League 2023-24 opener. The clash is scheduled to take place at the iconic Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Sunday, September 23, 2023.
The Highlanders, under the stewardship of Juan Pedro Benali, are approaching the competition with renewed determination. Since the Spaniard took charge, the Guwahati-based side have shown signs of improvement; reaching the semi-finals of the Durand Cup 2023 and maintaining an unbeaten record in regulation time. While Mumbai City FC boast a slightly better head-to-head record with nine wins, the home side, with six victories, are determined to narrow that gap, fueled by their rejuvenated squad and newfound confidence.
Addressing the media ahead of this crucial encounter, head coach Benali acknowledged the formidable challenge posed by their first opponents. He said, “Our first game of the ISL is against a very strong opponent. They’re one of the best teams in the league and we're a work-in-progress. But I think everybody is mentally ready for the game. We're waiting for it. We hope to have an interesting game but it will not be easy for both the teams.”
The anticipation among fans is palpable as NorthEast United FC embarks on their 10th season in the ISL. In a heart-warming display of support, the fans are set to unveil a large tifo, aiming to set a new record for their beloved team.
“We know that they're pushing us in a good way and we need to honour them. We need to give absolutely everything. Any player who goes into the field, he will give 1000% to honour those people who's really supporting us, thinking about us, and spending money to show their love for NorthEast United FC,” Benali added.
Adding to the team's spirit, defender Gaurav Bora, who captained the side in the Durand Cup 2023, addressed questions about the added responsibility. He responded confidently, “Here everyone is the leader and everyone supports me really well with that. So, I don't feel any pressure with it. I'm really happy and proud of that.”
The stage is set for an electrifying contest.