ISL 2019-20: Chennaying FC coach John Gregory emphasises the need to gell quickly
The two teams go into the contest with contrasting results - Chennaiyin suffered a heavy 0-3 defeat away at FC Goa in their opening game while Mumbai City won 1-0 away at Kerala Blasters FC.
With a vastly changed team from last season, Chennaiyin found it tough to contain last year's finalists Goa after conceding the opening goal to Seiminlen Doungel. Goa then breached the Chennaiyin defence twice more giving coach John Gregory some selection headaches ahead of Chennaiyin's home opener.
Gregory opted to go with two defensive midfielders in Masih Saighani and Dhanapal Ganesh against Goa as he was wary of their attacking threat, but he hinted at some likely changes for the Mumbai game.
"I’ve always had the ability to change numbers. I made three changes in Goa and the boys that came on did very well and I might make one or two changes against Mumbai. I can bring in 2 more foreigners who did not start the Goa game," said Gregory.
"We went in with a game plan. It did okay but we had to change to Plan B. I thought that Rafa (Crivellaro) and Thapa coming on made a big difference to our team. I was pleased with the second half."
Chennaiyin have changed their entire foreign contingent this season except for Eli Sabia who continues from last season. There have been new Indian signings as well in the form of Lallianzuala Chhangte and Edwin Vanspaul and Gregory admitted that his team would take time to come together, but cautioned against taking too long.
"Sometimes, it does take a little while for everyone to settle in. BFC and Goa have had a settled team in the last two years. The ISL comes quick and you have to pick up results quickly. We can’t sit around for everyone to jell. Tomorrow is a good opportunity to pick up a win," said the Englishman.
While Chennaiyin lost the game by a 3-goal margin, Gregory's men could have been in front when a clear penalty was not awarded for a foul on Dragos Firtulescu inside the box by Goa defender Seriton Fernandes.
Gregory was still fuming about the decision and was rather scathing in his assessment:
"It was a clear cut penalty. It was unbelievable that the ref and the linesman did not make the decision. If that ref made that decision in Europe, he would never referee a game at the top level. He would be banished to the lower levels. In India, however, he will probably referee again this weekend. The standard of refereeing needs to improve."
He felt the improvement in refereeing had not been concurrent with developments in other areas for the league -
"The tactical knowledge the coaches have brought and the standards of Indian players has improved, their football knowledge has improved. The foreign players have improved. The teams have improved. Unfortunately, the quality of refereeing has not improved at all. The level of officiating needs to improve because everything else is improving."
The coach is keen to get the ball rolling at home despite the setback though, as Chennaiyin will play back-to-back home games culminating what will be a hectic week with 3 games in 7 days.
"First game in front of the fans and obviously our players want to make an impression. I don't care how we win, we need to get three points. I’d be delighted if we can take max points from the next two games."
The coach also had words of praise for new goalkeeper Kaith whose performance he said went unnoticed and is hoping he gets a clean sheet against Mumbai City on Sunday.
Firtulescu, who accompanied his coach for the press conference, said he believes in his abilities to become one of the best players in the league. The Romanian started out wide on the right but was allowed a free role to roam behind the striker.
"I am an attacking mid-fielder so I can play any position, but I feel good when I play on the right. Depending on the team's requirements I can adapt", said the Romanian.
He also stressed the need to be patient by saying:
"I think we have a very talented team this season, just we require some time to get the chemistry going. We're hoping to celebrate a win with our fans at the end of tomorrow's game."
Jeje Lalpekhlua is out long-term for Chennaiyin while the coach also confirmed that midfielder Germanpreet Singh will not be available for the game due to personal reasons.