After a remarkable turnaround in the league phase, Chennaiyin FC now find themselves in the playoffs and are gearing up to take on the league stage winners FC Goa in their semi-final matchup, the first leg of which will be played in Chennai on Saturday evening.
Having secured qualification already, Chennaiyin played NorthEast United in their final league game on Tuesday, fielding a largely reserve side. The game finished 2-2 with Tondonba Singh given a red card for a foul during the game.
“If we’d played our best team, we would have won at NorthEast. But we had to give minutes to other players. I think it was the first time in ISL, a team started with 10 Indian players”, said Coyle.
Speaking ahead of their semi-final against Goa, Chennaiyin head coach Owen Coyle talked about the clash with Goa. While conceding that their opponents were the best team across the league, he said that his team had been up there with them in the second half of the season.
“Consistently over the 18 games, Goa are the best team and their position in the table shows that. But over the last 12 games, we have matched them I would think. Semifinal gives us an opportunity to play the best teams and tomorrow is such an opportunity.”
Not only has it been about the points picked up by Coyle’s men, but also their style of football which has been very entertaining with an attacking mindset. It’s an approach the coach said wouldn’t change now that the team has reached the semis.
“People enjoy watching us and we wanted to make sure we continue to do that. But having got here (play-offs), we want to see it through. But we are playing against a quality side with good coaches. But we have shown we can go toe-to-toe with any team.”
In the league phase, Goa won both their meetings against Chennaiyin, but Coyle believes the past results have no bearing on the upcoming clash.
“The previous two games have no significance. In that team, Jerry and Dinalina were not there. Eli was suspended. We are a changed team now. What happened in earlier games has no relevance. We play with a positive mindset. It will be an entertaining game. I don’t think both our sides will change our style of play.”
With so much focus on the attacking players on either side, Coyle also stressed about not forgetting the defences who are likely to have a huge role to play in deciding the outcome of the game.
“When you look at it. Both forward lines, the attacking midfielders, everyone are fantastic players. That places a huge onus on how we defend. We are a changed team since I’ve come in. Especially in terms of how we shape up. Both teams operate with two foreign centre-backs. Both of us have good fullbacks. For me, Dinlinana, Jerry, German, they should be in the national team squad as well.”
Andre Schembri is nursing a niggle and his inclusion could be a game-time decision for the two-time champs.
“He might be available. That would depend on his training today”, said Coyle. “If he feels good and there is no reaction, he will be involved. It promises to be an exciting game and Schembri promises a different dimension. So let’s hope he is available.”
The gaffer also revealed that Dragos Firtulescu was a big doubt and Tondonba Singh will serve out his suspension.Published 28 Feb 2020, 19:47 IST