NorthEast United will hope to continue their impressive start to the season when they take on Kerala Blasters in their second game of the Indian Super League at the GMC Stadium in Goa on Thursday.

Gerard Nus’ side had shocked Mumbai City FC in their opener with many impressed by their defensive resilience. Against a Kerala side that did not manage a single shot on target in their loss to ATK Mohun Bagan on the opening day of ISL-7, Nus will back his defenders to continue their good run.

He will also be buoyed by the fact that NEUFC are unbeaten in their last four games against Kerala. Regardless, Nus expects a tough game against Kerala. “Kerala Blasters have one of the best squads in ISL. They are a tough team to play against. They are good in the build-up, organisation, and set-pieces. They can create chances in so many ways. It is going to be a hard match,” he said. “They did not deserve to lose. They are going to play good football again.”

Kerala coach Kibu Vicuna knows how strong his opponents are and is under no illusions. “They played a very good match against Mumbai City and they are a very good team. For sure, they are going to be a strong team and a very tough challenge for us,” he said.

Kerala and NEUFC had two of the worst defense tallies in the league last year, only managing three clean sheets each. While the latter seems to have moved on from there and bolstered their backline, the same old woes are haunting Kerala. In their opener against ATKMB, the goal that cost them the game came from a defensive mistake.

But Vicuna says that things will improve with time and that his Kerala side is essentially a work in progress. “It takes time and we are in the process. I think with time, we are going to be better, we are going to play better. We have a lot of new players, both Indian and foreign. So it will take time to create our identity as a football team,” he said.