ISL 2016: The road ahead for Chennaiyin FC
The weather around the city of Chennai has been rather clear these past few weeks. The same however cannot be said of their football team, Chennaiyin FC, who've had it rough of late. The team that won the Indian Super League last year finds itself in a spot of bother into the second month of the 2016 edition.
With 10 points to their name, just two wins, three draws and four losses, the defending champs find themselves in second last place on the table. They are coming off hefty losses on the road, first losing to Delhi Dynamos 1-4 and then the Kerala Blasters 1-3. Chennaiyin have now gone five games without a win after having drawn their three previous games before the back-to-back losses.
Head coach Marco Materazzi has a lot on his plate as he ponders the way ahead for his side with just five games remaining and his team needing to arrest their slide if they are to make the playoffs.
Of note, however, is that Chennaiyin were in this same position last year too. With five games to go, they had the same number of points and looked down and out before mounting a superb late charge that saw them go all the way and lift the trophy. So, if history is anything to go by, then this side has shown that they are not ones to give up meekly.
“We will keep fighting. We need 30,000 fans at the stadium. It’s easy to cheer when the team is winning. We need fans to cheer us in our bad moments,” a bullish Materazzi had to say ahead of the team's next game, against FC Pune City at home on Tuesday.
Chennaiyin have had problems in all areas of the pitch, leading to their struggles. The defence has bled goals badly this year with seven goals conceded in their most recent road trip. The goals have not been forthcoming either with the attacking unit lacking cohesion and failing to convert chances that have come their way. There are things that need shoring up across the board.
Of the remaining five games for Chennaiyin, three of them are at home. They will look to take maximum advantage of that despite having an unimpressive home record thus far this season, with just one win in the four games played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.
Another plus for Materazzi’s side is that they will not have to play two of the top three teams anymore in the league phase, in Delhi and Kerala. Here's a rundown of the remaining fixtures and how Chennaiyin match up against these opponents.
vs. FC Pune City, November 15
Antonio Habas has been a coach who has had the better of his exchanges with Materazzi in the ISL. The Spaniard has lost only once in seven encounters against the Italian, the loss coming in the first leg of last year's semifinal between Chennaiyin and his former side Atletico de Kolkata (ATK).
Habas has switched over to Pune this term, and after a slow start, his team has slowly climbed the table and find themselves in fifth place with 12 points from nine games. The first meeting between these two sides this year ended in a 1-1 draw. Jeje Lalpekhlua had given Chennaiyin the lead with a superb goal that caught the keeper off his line, but Pune fought back to salvage a point.
“In Pune, we conceded that free kick which changed the whole game in which we were dominated”, Materazzi had said of the game feeling that it was a chance for three points missed.
Despite being above them in the table, Pune aren't the hardest opposition in the league and Chennaiyin should look to pick up three points here.