Chennaiyin FC eye win vs Kerala Blasters, top spot in Indian Super League table
While Chennaiyin FC are third in the Indian Super League standings, Kerala Blasters are seventh in the 10-team tournament.Updated: Dec 21, 2017 22:22 IST
Press Trust of India, Chennai
Chennaiyin FC take on Kerala Blasters in their seventh game of the Indian Super League at the Nehru Stadium here tomorrow, aiming for a fifth win and a top spot in the points table.
Former champions Chennaiyin have bounced back strongly after losing the season opener to FC Goa and won three games in a row before being stopped by Mumbai City FC. They are at third spot with 12 points from six matches.
Chennaiyin beat a strong Bengaluru FC on December 17 in an away fixture and will be hoping to carry the momentum to the encounter against Blasters, co-owned among others by cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.
Brazilian import Raphael Augusto has been one of the key players for CFC, scoring two goals and has been a driving force in the mid-field.
CFC coach John Gregory has hailed the 26-year-old midfielder and termed him as a ‘fighter’. Augusto’s creativity helped Dhanapal Ganesh and Bikramjit Singh go about their business upfront.
Jeje Lalpekhlua, with three goals so far, has come into his own after a subdued first game and will be crucial to the team’s chances.
Chennaiyin’s ability to grind out results was certainly on show in their late wins against ATK and Bengaluru FC. Even with their backs to the wall, Gregory has moulded them into a never-say-die outfit which keeps going till the end in the quest for points.
“I’ll never be satisfied. I told my players that we should have more points on the board. We’ve messed up a couple of times and I’ve messed up a couple of times but I’m delighted how hard the players have worked in training and matches,” Gregory told reporters ahead of tomorrow’s game.
He also said his side now has a weight of expectation on them due to their performances.
Blasters have been below par, at best, thus far with the team scoring only four goals in five games and coach Renee Mulesteen will be hoping for a turnaround.
The onus will be on C K Vineeth, who scored the winner against NorthEast United, to provide the spark and pull off a win at the Marina Arena.
The Kerala team had a training session this morning ahead of the match and the coach would have had a chat about their low scoring rate.
Coach Mulesteen said they were still developing as a team and it was important to create chances and score goals going forward in the tournament.
“The first task is to reassure my players that we’re in an ongoing process, still developing as a team and as individuals and you slowly put your jigsaw together. Apart from the Goa game, you have seen us getting more positive going forward, creating chances, opening teams up and scoring goals,” he said.
Clean sheets would still be a high priority for his team which has kept three in five games, he added.
However, it would be easier said than done as Chennaiyin are a formidable outfit at home. Gregory’s men have got better with each game and local player Dhanapal Ganesh too seems to have come into his own and scored the winner against Bengaluru FC.
The Blasters, with six points, will be aware of the task at hand in what is the first leg of the South derby and the defence must step up after the lapses seen in the previous games.
Gregory said he would take nothing for granted despite Chennaiyin losing just twice in eight games against the Blasters.
“I only use a statistic like that when it is to my advantage. I expect Kerala to finish higher than where they are and they’re coming into this game on the back of their first win and will prepare hard to get a favourable result,” the Englishman said.
First Published: Dec 21, 2017 19:30 IST