NorthEast United
The Highlanders will need to be strong and challenge bigger teams for the title.IANS

NorthEast United are one of the most supported teams in the Indian Super League, both home and away. Their fans create a spectacular atmosphere, but the club, as a whole, have not delivered in the last two editions of ISL so far. John Abraham-owned side have never made it beyond the group stages of the competition, but after acquiring the services of experienced manager Nelo Vingada and Ivorain star Didier Zokora, there is hope for a bright performance. 

Though the club might not have been remarkable in its performance in the last two editions, they are a team on the rise. They finished eighth in ISL 2014, and improved last season, finishing fifth, defeating some big teams in due process as well. They looked good in 2015, but lacked consistency, which did not help them in the round robin stages.

Coming to this season, there is plenty of hope from the franchise that play their home football in Guwahati. The Highlanders have always played an attractive brand of football in the last two editions, with youngsters making the bulk of the squad. Their players' energy on the pitch is second to none. 

The team comprises some quality youngsters like Lallianzuala Chhangte, who is one of the highly rated stars in India football at present. The 19-year old will hope to turn up the heat this season, and help NorthEast United achieve ultimate glory as well. Besides the youngster, they have made some important signings to make them a strong side in the competition.

The Highlanders will also look forward for the services of former Premier League player, Zokora, who will be keen to inspire the team for a fruitful season ahead. With the inclusion of Katsumi Yusa in the squad, they look a formidable side as the attacking midfielder has been impressive for Mohun Bagan in the recent past, scoring goals.

The present squad of NorthEast may lack experience, as their average age of the squad is 26, hence it makes great sense after having signed top goalkeeper Subrata Paul, though they have a safe hand in the form of TP Rehenesh. There seems to be a good mix of new (Zokora, Chhangte and Yusa) and old players (Nico Velez and Seityasen Singh) in the club for this season, and they will hope to go all the way in 2016.

The competition is just three days away, and the players have been training real hard for the competitive season ahead. After having signed some key players, it is time for the Highlanders to shine, and make their mark in the competition, winning matches with their brilliant style of play.

The John Abraham-owned side have a tough opening fixture in the ISL, as they are set to kick off the third edition of the ISL against Kerala Blasters at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday. The opening match is going to be of utmost importance for the club. If they can start the ISL with an impressive win against Kerala, they will gain immense confidence, and the club can take that momentum forward and hope for a bright ISL 2016.