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I-League 2018-19: “We are not looking at the points table,” says Chennai City coach Nawaz ahead of match against Mohun Bagan

Avik Roy
355   //    30 Nov 2018, 19:58 IST

Akbar Nawaz (second from left) at the pre-match press conference-
Akbar Nawaz (second from left) at the pre-match press conference-

With 16 points from six matches, Chennai City FC are sitting pretty top of the I-League point table. Apart from their lone draw against Churchill Brothers, they’ve won all their matches in this campaign. The team from Coimbatore will look to maintain their position when they face Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan in their away match at Kolkata on Thursday. “Like previous matches, out target will be three points this time too. Whether it’s Mohun Bagan or any other team, we want to compete and take all the points from the match,” coach Akbar Nawaz clearly set his aim straight before the match.

Barely a couple of weeks ago, Chennai defeated East Bengal here on the same ground. Will it give confidence to them ahead of their match against another Kolkata rival? When asked this question, Nawaz firmly denied and said Thursday match is a different challenge for them.

“I don’t think so. For me, it doesn’t matter. Whenever we take the field, we want to give our full effort. Tomorrow it’s a different ball game. I believe Mohun Bagan will come out differently. They lost their last match against Churchill Brothers. I’m sure they will be more eager to win in front of their fans. We forgot what happened in the past. Tomorrow is a very challenging game for us,” Nawaz said.

“We have to more careful. Mohun Bagan are a sleeping giant and might opt for an all-out attack against us. I feel the Churchill game was an off-day for them. If you look at the statistics, you would see they’ve the highest number of passing accuracy. That says a lot about a team. So we have to be very careful,” Nawaz added.

The Singaporean coach favours passing football and keeping the ball. But it’s easier said than done. After taking charge ahead of the Super Cup, Nawaz instilled a new energy to Chennai City. Compared to last season, they are playing more attacking brand of football, reaching the opponent’s box through five or six passes. Apart from the Spanish players who are used to it, the Indian boys have also come to the occasion to help their team.

When asked about the secret, Nawaz credited the team owner Rohit Ramesh. “We train hard and we have a system in place. We know what we want to achieve. But the most important thing for me is the support of our owner Rohit. He knows we might make mistakes, we might lose a game, we can have a bad patch. But a belief has to be there that the team want to make their mark in this way. I have to give credit to my owner for believing in us. I think our performance is there for all to see. But even after six games, we have not played good enough and we want to improve more,” said the gaffer.

Being on top also doesn’t put pressure on Chennai City. The team is told not to look at the points table before facing an opponent. Giving clarification to this, Nawaz said, “If we look at the table and go out in tomorrow’s game, then surely we’ll be in trouble. We have to give more time on our strategy and formation rather than looking at the table.”

The coach believes their real task is beginning from now. In the past, teams who occupied the top position faded away in the later stages of the campaign. So keeping the momentum will be a challenge for Chennai. Nawaz said, “The more you go unbeaten, the more teams want to beat you. I felt these experiences in my previous club also. It gets tougher and tougher if you continue winning matches because the expectation gets tougher.”

However, Nawaz can take heart from Aizawl and Minerva’s campaign last season, who despite being the minnows, emphatically came away winning the title.