More than a football match, says Gregory ahead of Bengaluru clash
The champions of the last two Hero Indian Super League editions have not been at their best this time around and suffer from similar problems. While the defending champions Bengaluru have played out three draws and are eighth on the table, 2017-18 champions Chennaiyin are rock bottom with just one draw to show for from three matches.
A win on Sunday will be vital for both teams and help them go into the international break on a positive note.
A lack of goals has been at the forefront of the poor start both teams have made. While Bengaluru have at least one goal to show in three games, Chennaiyin FC are the only team not to have registered a goal so far.
It has not been all gloom and doom for the two teams so far though. After a stalemate against NorthEast United in their opening game, Bengaluru were in control of their match against FC Goa and only an unfortunate tackle in injury time helped Goa equalise through a penalty. Against Jamshedpur FC, though, heroics from Subrata Paul denied Bengaluru a goal.
“Things like this happen in football. Sometimes it's a question of things happening, but no real reason for it. It's just numbers. It's the same for Chennai. They haven't scored for many games now, but they are going to change that for sure. We have created a lot of chances with different players and that is important,” said Bengaluru coach Carles Cuadrat.
The Spaniard will be happy with how his team’s defence has been performing. The only issue is the continued absence of Albert Serran due to a muscle injury.
“We are working well with our team. I have seen that in the first three games. We have not been scoring goals, but we have been consistent with our performances,” he said.
John Gregory’s side have a revamped forward line from last season, but thanks to a combination of profligate finishing and poor decision-making, they are yet to find a goal.
“We actually played very well, especially in the last two home matches. We had 40 shots in two games, 20 in each game, and we know that we should have scored. We should have really got six points in those two games,” said Gregory.
After an opening game debacle in Goa which they lost 0-3, Chennaiyin’s defence has held its own against Mumbai City and ATK, conceding only one goal since.
Chennaiyin do have players like Anirudh Thapa and Rafael Crivellaro who can influence proceedings from the midfield. However, it remains to be seen if they can translate that ability on the field against another strong team who are desperate for a win themselves.
“The rivalry between the two teams has been very strong since Bengaluru came into the league in 2016. Our fans and their fans enjoy this game because there is a lot at stake. We would like our first victory of the season and there is no better place than get it here (Bengaluru). It's a little bit more than just a football match,” said the Englishman.
Chennaiyin last scored in an ISL match back in February. Ironically, it was against Bengaluru FC and the Marina Machans won the game 2-1.
John Gregory’s side will hope for a repeat of that result on Sunday while Cuadrat’s agenda will be to pile further misery on their South Indian rivals.