ISL 2018-19: Chennaiyin announce squad, Dhanpal Ganesh omitted due to injury
Coach John Gregory, who led the team to the championship in his very first season in India last season, briefly addressed the gathered media before formally introducing the 25 players and key support staff for ISL season five.
Chennaiyin are looking to become the first team to successfully defend the ISL title. As well as heightened expectations as a result of last season's success, the team also has an additional competition in the AFC Cup to contend with this time around.
Much of the successful squad that went all the way in season four is back, including key players such as midfielders Raphael Augusto and Gregory Nelson, and, defenders Mailson Alves and Inigo Calderon. Alves, who scored twice in the final against Bengaluru, has been named captain after the club failed to reach a deal with last year's skipper Henrique Sereno.
Defender Eli Sabia has come back for a second stint with Chennaiyin and is likely to take Sereno's spot in the backline. Midfielder Andrea Orlandi, who played with Inigo Calderon at Brighton and Hove Albion, and forward Carlos Antonio are the new foreign signings.
As far as the Indian players are concerned, midfielder Bikramjit Singh was the team's biggest loss in the off-season, but Chennaiyin have brought in replacements in the form of Isaac Vanmalsawma, formerly of Shillong Lajong and FC Pune City and Srinivasan Pandiyan who had a very impressive I-League season with Chennai City FC last term.
Notable though is the absence of local boy and midfield mainstay Dhanpal Ganesh from the 25-man squad list with Gregory revealing that the midfielder has been sidelined due to an injury sustained in training and his omission from the squad altogether means it's quite likely we don't see him until after December.
Chennaiyin have also promoted three of their players from the youth team - Hendry Antonay, Bedashwor Singh and Zonunmawia - to the senior squad with Gregory believing the trio will "learn a lot being around these senior players" during the season. He also added that they will definitely see minutes on the pitch even if in short order.
Despite the increased competition coach Gregory is buoyant about the upcoming season. "Looking forward to it very much", said the Englishman adding, "There's no pressure on us. Players are very focused just like last season. They will look to let their ability do the talking."
The season four triumph was Chennaiyin's second and one man who has seen it all is striker Jeje Lalpekhlua. 'The Mizo Sniper' has been at Chennaiyin from the very beginning and mentioned that he is very happy about the club's development.
"I have been here from day one and I'm very happy to see the team's success. In season two we had Elano and Mendoza and after they left people said we cannot win the league again. But we did it last year. We have lost our captain Sereno and Gavi (Jaime Gavilan), but we Eli (Sabia), Andre (Orlandi) and Carlos (Antonio) have joined us and hopefully they can fill those spots", said Jeje.
The complete squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Karanjit Singh, Sanjiban Ghosh, Nikhil Bernard
Defenders: Mailson Alves (C) (Brazil), Eli Sabia (Brazil), Inigo Calderon (Spain), Jerry Lalrinzuala, Tondonba Singh, Laldinliana Renthlei, Zohmingliana Ralte, Hendry Antonay
Midfielders: Raphael Augusto (Brazil), Gregory Nelson (The Netherlands), Andrea Orlandi (Italy), Francisco Fernandes, Thoi Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Germanpreet Singh, Srinivasan Pandiyan, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Bedashwor Singh, Zonunmawia
Forwards: Jeje Lalpekhlua, Mohammed Rafi, Carlos Antonio Salom (Palestine)