ISL 2017: 5 reasons why Chennaiyin FC can win the title
A lot of the same players, but a new coach. Can Chennaiyin mount another title challenge?
2017 is the year of expansion as far as Indian football is concerned.
The country expanded its international footprint by playing host for the first time ever to a FIFA event in the form of the Men's Under-17 World Cup. Its national team has made huge strides in the FIFA rankings. And the Indian Super League (ISL 2017) will also be a new, expanded tournament this time around, stretching over four months and featuring more teams.
Winners of season 2, Chennaiyin FC, will look to once again be in the race for the title and expand their own trophy cabinet. They have been one of the most consistent teams in the ISL and will look to keep up their level in the face of added competition from the new teams.
We take a look at five things that could help Chennaiyin in their quest this season for a second ISL title.
#1 An intact core
In the face of massive changes at all of the remaining teams over three seasons, Chennaiyin have been an exception by opting to go for continuity and largely playing with the same group of players. This year though that's not the case as the draft and retention system introduced has led to plenty of player movement.
Despite that, Chennaiyin made a conscious effort to retain five players, the second highest of any team behind only Bengaluru FC, who retained six. It's not just the number, but the positions that these players play that are important. Jeje Lalpekhlua, their lead striker, has been retained. Jeje is the third-leading goal scorer in the competition with 14 goals in three seasons. The team will look to him to lead the frontline and bounce back from a disappointing 2016 campaign.
Their midfield general, Raphael Augusto, has also been retained. The Brazilian has established himself as one of the best central midfielders in the competition with his ball control and touch.
Jerry Lalrinzuala, the breakout star for the team last year, is also another crucial piece that the team retained. The 19-year old has made the left-back position his own showing fantastic instincts both defending as well as going forward.
In addition to the above trio, Chennaiyin retained keeper Karanjit Singh and youngster Anirudh Thapa. And in the draft, they went out and got their old boys Thoi Singh, Dhanpal Ganesh and Dhanachandra Singh.
So a solid home-grown core of the team has been brought back, personnel that has been part of the title run in 2015. The continuity should serve them well this season.