The Guwahati-based NorthEast United FC, co-owned by actor John Abraham, had a disastrous ISL debut finishing last in 2014. The highlanders came close to qualifying for the playoffs, and were placed fifth in the last two seasons. No coach has stayed on for more than one season with North East United FC in the ISL and this time, they have roped in João Carlos Pires de Deus from Portugal. The 40-year-old de Deus hopes to arrest the coach changing trend for NorthEast United FC and for self – he has not survived an entire season with all Portuguese teams he has handled. The team kick-started their ISL preparations in Guwahati for the 2017-18 season defeating newly promoted I-League club Neroca FC 2-0 in an exhibition match. They played three pre-season matches against as many Iraqi clubs in Turkey, losing two and drawing one. The club spent Rs. 3.66 crore in the ISL draft earlier this year, the second lowest among the ten teams. However, with the likes of Seiminlen Doungel, Lalrempuia, Malemnganba Meitei, et al, they possess a lot of pace on their wings, which could make them tricky customers on the counter. Despite not being among the big spenders in the league, NorthEast United FC have a balanced squad with enough depth to challenge for a play-off spot in the ISL.Facebook/NEROCAJoão Carlos Pires de Deus is NorthEast United FC’s fourth head coach in four years and he will be hoping to get the team to a play-off spot in the 2017-18 Indian Super League.João Carlos Pires de DeusPortuguese tactician João Carlos Pires de Deus is NorthEast United FC’s fourth head coach in four years. The 41-year-old de Deus started his managerial career with the Cape Verde national team in 2008, before managing teams in the lower divisions of the Spanish and Portuguese leagues. In 2013-14, he was in charge of Gil Vicente, who were playing in the Portuguese top-flight at the time. Following his sacking from the club, he took charge of Sporting Lisbon’s reserve side. His last assignment was a short spell in charge of Nacional, who were relegated from the Portuguese top tier last season. De Deus was handed the reins of the club in March, but he failed to prevent them from going down.Three players to watch outOdaïr Fortes: This 30-year-old striker from Cape Verde will lead the highlanders’ attacking line. He emigrated to France in 2004 but since 2010 has represented Cape Verde 23 times and scored four goals for the national team. He has also played more than 200 games for the French side Stade Reims, scoring 23 goals and helping the team with promotion for two consecutive seasons. He is nicknamed TGV.Rowlin Borges: The 25-year-old midfielder helped NorthEast United F.C. finish fifth last year. A regular in the lineup last season, he is expected to lend stability in the midsection. He had signed for Sporting Clube de Goa in 2011 and made his debut against Prayag United in the I-League that year. Having represented India in 19 games, he scored his first goal for the country in the match against Nepal in the SAFF Suzuki Cup in 2015.Halicharan Narzary: The 23-year-old winger from Assam has had a good run for the national team and for his previous club DSK Shivajians, for whom he scored 4 goals from 12 games. Narzary made his professional debut in 2011 for Pailan Arrows against eventual I-League champions Salgaocar, coming in as a substitute and scoring the only goal for his team. NorthEast United FC had drafted him for the 2015 season before he moved to DSK Shivajians. He made his India U-19 debut in 2011 and for India U-23 the following year. He has played 12 matches for the India team.