Kochi: As the ISL approaches its closing stages, leaders Chennaiyin FC are the only side confirmed of a semi-final berth. The other seven franchisees are clipping each other’s heels as the race enters the home stretch. That makes Thursday’s penultimate round match between Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here a do-or-die battle for the two teams involved.
Kerala has 15 points and is three behind third-placed Atletico de Kolkata while NorthEast is in the sixth position trailing further by two points.NorthEast will be knocked out if they fail to win and Kerala will be left at the mercy of other franchisees’ results should they fail to pick up three points against NorthEast that defeated them 0-1 in round one at Guwahati.
Both sides are sweating over the fitness of key players and David James himself is unsure of a starting berth in the Kerala goal having played just 19 minutes from the start against Chennaiyin on Sunday with a groin injury. Marquee player Joan Capdevila is back in the NorthEast defense after serving his suspension for a second yellow against Chennaiyin.
James is likely to stick to his English 4-4-2 system with Iain Hume in the hole and Michael Chopra pushing for a start.