The Hero Indian Super League has now reached its business end, and features the first semi-final, in the form of ‘The South Indian Derby’ today. Kerala Blasters will host the Chennaiyin FC in the third edition of the South Indian derby in the first leg of the semi-final. Both teams would look to grab a win tonight, so they can look to play out a draw later in the second leg.
While form in this highly volatile league is of no importance, team chemistry is. The understanding of both the teams would be tested when they take to the field against each other later this evening.
Venue and Kick-off
The electric Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, will host its last encounter of the Indian Super League. The stadium is easily set to see a capacity crowd of close to 60,000 and create an electric and intimidating atmosphere for the visitors. The yellow faithful are expected to swarm in with drums and cheer their beloved team for the entire 90 minutes.
Kick-off Time: 7 PM IST
Kerala Blasters (4-1-3-2): Sandip Nandy; Sandesh Jhigan, Gurwinder Singh, Cedric Hengbart, McAllister; Mehtab Hossain; Penn Orji, Stephen Pearson, Forcada; Milagres Gonsalves, Iain Hume.
Kerala Blasters have enjoyed a resurge in their final matches of the Super League, which has guided the Yellow outfit to the coveted semi-final spots. The Blasters have impressed with their box to box play and would look to catch Chennaiyin FC off-guard.
Sandip Nandy, is once again set to start in goal. Although the Indian veteran showed signs of complacency in their match against Delhi Dynamos, Nandy also made some jaw-dropping saves. Kerala are expected to start with their best possible starting XI and that includes Mehtab Hossain and Penn Orji. While Mehtab Hossain has been solid in the midfield department, Penn Orji has captivated the audience with his trademark darting runs, from midfield.
Gurwinder Singh and Cedric Hengbart will be at the heart of the defense for Kerala. Both of them have been solid so far, but Gurwinder who is not a traditional center-back, could face problems against the electric duo of Jeje and Balwant in Chennai’s attack.
Led by Milagres Gonsalves and Iain Hume in the final third, Kerala Blasters would look to press from high up the park, and would rely on Iain Hume’s tireless running and directness to trouble the Chennai defence. The Blasters will, as usual, look to stay compact.
Chennaiyin FC (4-3-1-2): Bracigliano; Jairo Suarez, Alessandro Nesta, Mikael Silvestre, Harmanjot Khabra; Bojan Djordjic, Djemba-Djemba, Denson; Pellisari; Jeje, Balwant Singh
Chennaiyin FC’s road to the semi-finals has been built around hardwork and hitting opposing teams on counter-attacks. Going into the semi-final, the solid defensive pairing of Alessandro Nesta and Mikael Silvestre, would be very solid and will look to the stifle the opponents. Although Chennaiyin FC would be playing away from home, the best result for the Abhishek Bachchan co-owned side would be to grab a comfortable win and play out a draw against Kerala in their own backyard.
Their defensive setup has been the team’s engine thus far. Alessandro Nesta and Mikael Silvestre are expected to form the center-back pairing while Gennaro Bracigliano, who has been decent so far, is expected to start in goal for the Chennai outfit. The attack will be led by the electric pairing of Jeje and Balwant Singh, who have developed great chemistry and haunted Super League defenses.
Chennaiyin would look to capitalize on their sudden burst of speed and attack via these two strikers. Their key player however, will be Bruno Pellisari, who has been a standout performer for them in his role behind the attacking duo of Jeje and Balwant Singh, will look to feed the two Indian strikers balls that lets them run beyond the defence.
Gurwinder Singh vs Balwant Singh
The South Indian derby will feature a great battle in the form of Gurwinder Singh and Balwant Singh. Both lads from Punjab have impressed with their performances thus far and would look to trouble each other when they face off tonight. Gurwinder, who is traditionally a midfielder, could face a lot of trouble against Balwant Singh.
Iain Hume vs Alessandro Nesta
Iain Hume would face a baptism of fire, when he faces legendary defender Alessandro Nesta. Hume, has been, Kerala’s best bet by far in the attacking department and would look to beat Nesta, with his turn of pace. A good tactical battle is set to esnure between these two veterans of the game.
Running high on home support, Kerala Blasters should win their encounter against Chennaiyin FC. Although Chennaiyin’s electric attack would prove to be a test for Sandip Nandy and Kerala’s backline, the home team shoudl be able to survive their onslaught and march on to victory, most likely through a goal in the first forty five minutes itself.