Chennaiyin FC are back in the familiar surrounds of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, and will be desperate to end a run of four straight draws as they entertain FC Pune City in a clash that could see the winner pull slightly away from the chasing pack, and join Atletico de Kolkata at the top of the table.
Chennai's recent form has been consistent - only, they've played out four consecutive draws. Pune, on the other hand, are also unbeaten in their last four games, having notched up two wins and two draws in that period.
The reverse fixture saw an exciting game with both sides creating plenty of chances - especially Chennai, who would have rued the opportunities they missed on that day.
Venue and Kickoff
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which has been rechristened the Marina Arena by Chennaiyin FC, has been a cauldron of noise in all the four games that it has hosted so far, with the likes of Elano and Bernard Mendy becoming instant crowd favourites.
Tomorrow is expected to be no different, as Chennai will look to bank on the vociferous backing of their faithful, and end this string of draws with a positive result to go level on points with Kolkata at the top of the table.
Kick-off Time: 7pm IST
Probable XI: Gennaro Bracigliano, Gouramangi Singh, Bernard Mendy, Mikael Silvestre, Dhanachandra Singh, Eric Djemba Djemba, Denson Devadas, Harmanjot Khabra, Elano Blumer, John Stiven Mendoza, Balwant Singh
After playing four games on the trot, player-manager Marco Materazzi is likely to take a break, and the fit again Bernard Mendy is expected to take the Italian’s place alongside Mikael Silvestre at the heart of the Chennai defense. Chennai had further good news on the injury front, as Materazzi confirmed that Abhishek Das was back in training and available for selection. However, it is unlikely that the young Indian full back will be blooded straight back into the action.
Dane Pereira was called in for the previous game against Kolkata, but after a rather unimpressive display, his place is likely to be taken by Denson Devadas. Eric Djemba Djemba is expected to stave off competition from Bojan Djordjic and keep his place as the midfield anchor.
Balwant Singh has started the last two games in place of Jeje Lalpekhlua, and two rather impressive performances should help the Mohun Bagan man keep his place in the side.
FC Pune City
Probable XI: Arindam Bhattacharya, Pritam Kotal, Bruno Cirillo, Daniele Magliocchetti, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Lenny Rodrigues, Kostas Katsouranis, Davide Colomba, Israil Gurung, Jermaine Pennant, Dudu
Coach Franco Colomba mentioned at the pre-match press conference that there were no injury concerns that he was faced with. What that means is that Lenny Rodrigues is likely to take the place of Mehrajuddin Wadoo in central midfield. Otherwise, Pune are expected to field much the same side that put in a solid away performance in Guwahati to earn a point against NorthEast United.
Colomba praised his goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya, for grabbing his opportunity with both hands and keeping Emanuele Belardi out of the starting eleven. Krisztian Vadocz, the Hungarian who has replaced John Goossens will, in all probability, have to settle for a place on the bench again, as Colomba would not be willing to tinker with a midfield that has been functioning pretty well.
Elano vs Kostas Katsouranis
In the pre-match press conference, Franco Colomba praised the all round abilities of Kostas, and said he was at a luxury with having a player like the Greek in the squad. Elano has gone off the boil slightly in the last two games, and Materazzi attributed that to the Brazilian probably feeling a bit of tiredness. However, Materazzi also said that Elano had rested and recuperated well, and is raring to go against FC Pune City.
Kostas, alongside Lenny Rodrigues will have the unenviable task of trying to shackle the Brazilian, who is capable of producing a moment of magic from seemingly nothing. With willing runners in John Mendoza and Balwant Singh ahead of Elano, allowing the Brazilian any sort of space and time on the ball would be a cardinal sin for Pune to commit.
Dudu vs Mikael Silvestre and Bernard Mendy
With Mendy absent in the reverse fixture through injury, Dudu took advantage of the lack of pace in the duo of Marco Materazzi and Silvestre and ran Chennai ragged in the first half. With Dudu having fantastic support in the form of Israil Gurung, Jermaine Pennant and Davide Colomba, it would be important for Chennai’s French duo to be at the top of their game. What would help Chennai is the pace and strength of Mendy, which would be priceless when it comes to stopping Dudu.
John Mendoza vs Bruno Cirillo and Daniele Magliocchetti
Chennai’s Colombian recruit has been a breath of fresh air. Possessing a thunderous left foot, and blessed with great pace, he has troubled even the most accomplished of defenders in the league. Pune will be extra careful against Mendoza, especially given his fantastic performance in the reverse fixture, which was capped by him netting Chennai’s equalizer in that game.
Pune defender Cirillo brushed aside the Mendoza threat, claiming that it would be disastrous to concentrate on one player alone. Cirillo said that Chennai were a good all-round side. Magliocchetti in particular needs to step up, as he was found wanting several times by Mendoza, and in the process, gave away several fouls. That would be another dangerous tactic against Chennai given Elano’s prowess from free kicks anywhere near the box.
Chennai would consider themselves unlucky not to have won the previous game against Pune, and Materazzi will surely have his troops raring to go for what he called the first of six cup finals. Also given their home advantage, Chennai should prove too hot for Pune.
Chennaiyin FC 2-0 FC Pune City