Defending champions Chennaiyin FC would look to return to winning ways when they take on an upbeat Kerala Blasters in their Indian Super League football match at home in Chennai on Saturday.
Chennaiyin had jumped up the ladder with victory over NorthEast United FC but the draw against Pune in their last match slowed them down.
The Marco Materrazi-led side are currently at fourth spot in the league table with eight points from five matches and a win against Kerala will put them on top of the league table.
Kerala are riding high after scoring a come-from-behind win against FC Goa in Goa on October 24. They were down by a goal in the first session but staged a marvelous recovery in the second half to floor FC Goa 2-1 and jump to the fifth spot with eight points from six matches.
Chennaiyin had no such luck in their previous match and were forced to settle for a point, despite taking the lead against FC Pune City in a 1-1 result in Pune.
Chennaiyin are now at home for the next two matches and head coach Materazzi underlined the importance of registering victories, rather than dropping points.
“The two games (at home) will be fundamental to us. It’s difficult to win one game in the league and two in a row is even tougher. We know we are facing a really good team with solid defence and quality in attack. If we had won against Pune, we would have been at the top, but that did not happen. We have to have a change in mentality once again and face (Kerala) with an aggressive mentality. In this league, you can never stop,” said Materazzi.
Materazzi did not offer any hints on the team he would use for the Southern derby but if he chooses to field marquee player John Arne Riise, the Liverpool legend will be up against a familiar English Premier League rival.
At the other end of the pitch will be Kerala marquee player Aaron Hughes, the former Fulham defender (2007-08) who played against Riise (then Liverpool FC) in the English Premier League.
The two sides have been involved in some fierce contests in the past with Kerala famously knocking Chennaiyin out in the semifinals of the inaugural edition.
Kerala coach Steve Coppell is into his first season in ISL and is already aware of the history between his team and Southern rivals, Chennaiyin. But he said tomorrow’s match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will be just another game.
“I have been made aware of the history but it means nothing to me. As far as I am concerned, it is just another game. This is a different team, different players, different year and different occasion. What at stake now is totally different from what was at stake in the past. We play them in a couple of weeks, so may the best team come out on top in both these fixtures,” Coppell said.
Coppell agreed that the last match win has done his team a world of good and they are now determined to continue with their progress.
“Any win in this division is very important because it’s so close. Coming to the half-way stage, there is no great deal of points between teams at the top and those at the bottom. Our win against Goa, psychologically, was quite important for us,” he said.