Chennaiyin FC’s 2019-20 Indian Super League campaign was quite eventful. When previous coach John Gregory was replaced in the middle of the season by Owen Coyle, few would have predicted that the team would qualify for the play-offs with 29 points, and go on to play in the final.
The core of the squad is intact for the upcoming season, though the club will be without Owen Coyle and last season’s top scorer Nerijus Valskis. Here we take a look at five players who will be key to Chennaiyin FC’s success this season.
5 players who will be key for Chennaiyin FC
Crivallero was one of the main reasons for Chennaiyin FC's run to the final last season. The Brazilian midfielder registered seven goals and eight assists in his very first season with the club. Crivallero formed an excellent partnership with the team's young Indian players like Lallianzuala Chhangte and Edwin Vanspaul.
It is this understanding which enabled Chennai to play with their fearless style last season. With the 31-year-old recently declaring that he is ready for the upcoming season, we can expect him to play a big part once again.
Indian midfielder Anirudh Thapa needs no further endorsement of his skill and the impact he had on Chennaiyin FC than the fact that he became the first player to win the AIFF's emerging player of the year award twice. It shows the level of consistency he has maintained over the last few years, as he has become a crucial part of both Chennaiyin FC and the Indian national team.
In his central midfield position, Thapa is excellent at breaking down the lines of defence with his precise passing, and also pops up with a goal from time to time. His curler from outside the box against FC Goa last season is still fresh in the memory of many fans. More of the same is expected from him this season.
Joining Chennaiyin FC's ranks is one of the most consistent midfielders of the Indian Super League in the last four seasons. Memo joined the team upon the expiration of his contract at Jamshedpur FC after three years, and the 32-year-old Brazilian will bring steel and resolve in central midfield.
Memo did not miss a single game for Jamshedpur in the three seasons he spent there, and finished the 2018-19 ISL season with the most number of interceptions in the league (39). Memo's role will be that of a destroyer in central midfield, and if he continues playing the way he has been, his transfer to Chennaiyin FC could prove to be the most astute pieces of business in the ISL this summer.
No matter what the tactics may be, there are a few things on a football pitch that are next to impossible to deal with. One of those is raw pace, and young Indian winger Lallianzuala Chhangte possess plenty of that.
He will be one of the key players in this season's ISL for Chennaiyin FC. With the addition of a midfielder like Memo behind him, Chhangte will get even more license to drive up the pitch and do what he is best at - beating men on the flank and setting up a goal or a shot. The talent is there for all to see, and Chhangte would hope to score even more than the seven goals he did last season.
To add to Chennaiyin's litany of attacking players, there will be the assured presence of six-foot-six Bosnian defender Enes Sipovic in central defence. Sipovic is sure to fit in seamlessly with the team, being an experienced player who has won the Romanian second division with Otelul Galati in the past.
After his most recent stint in Qatar, Sipovic declared that he's not coming to India 'as a tourist', and that he means business. With the rock-solid presence of Vishal Kaith between the sticks and Sipovic ahead of him, Chennaiyin FC's defence looks even tougher to breach this season.Published 05 Oct 2020, 20:25 IST