Chennaiyin, NorthEast eye top-four berth (ISL preview)
Chennai, Nov 25 (IANS) Defending Chennaiyin FC will need to play out of their skins and grab full points if they are to stay alive in the Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament when they take on NorthEast United here on Saturday.
Chennaiyin are placed seventh with 14 points from 12 matches and need six points from their remaining two group matches to possibly qualify for the semi-finals.
Title holders Chennaiyin have to prove they can achieve both the wins needed, starting with NorthEast at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Last season, Chennaiyin were languishing at the bottom of the standings for much of the group stage but turned their fortunes around with a late surge, not just qualifying for the semi-finals but going on to win the title, beating FC Goa's in a thrilling final.
This time, not everything has worked according to plan for Chennaiyin coach Marco Materazzi but all is still not lost for the defending champions.
"We knew we were in a must-win situation and now we know that we have to win the next two games to get six points and we have shown (in the past) we can battle every team," said Materazzi, in an ISL release.
Chennaiyin have lost three of their last five matches, including the last one against Mumbai City FC, but they cannot afford anymore slips-ups against NorthEast on Saturday and FC Goa next week.
Meanwhile, NorthEast instilled life in their campaign with a solitary goal victory over FC Pune City in their last game.
They had gone six games without a win, losing four of them, but the 1-0 victory over Pune took them to the sixth spot with 14 points from 11 matches.
"I want to tell the real followers of NorthEast United that we will continue to fight till the end and we will go in with the mind-set of winning in our remaining three games of the league stage," said their Portuguese coach Nelo Vingada.
Besides Chennayin on Saturday, NorthEast have to take on the might of Delhi Dynamos on November 30 and Kerala Blasters on December 4 their efforts of secuing a top four spot.
NorthEast are likely to have the services of first-choice defenders Robin Gurung, Gustavo Lazzaretti and Nirmal Chettri, all of whom missed the last clash against Pune.
"Gustavo is in better shape than others but we can't take risks regarding getting them back as it can kill them for the rest of the competition," said Vingada.
A win for either team will take them to the top four, a position they covet.