CHENNAI: After collecting their first win under new coach Owen Coyle, Chennaiyin FC will look to carry the momentum forward when they face table-toppers FC Goa in an Indian Super League (ISL) encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday.
After a disastrous start to the season, Chennaiyin have now been in a good form and are unbeaten in the last four games (two wins and two draws). The team are currently placed eighth on the table with 9 points but a win can propel them to the sixth spot. But they have a mountain to climb against FC Goa who have 18 points from 9 matches and will look for a win to better their chances for a playoff berth.
But head coach Coyle said that even though they respect their opponents there is no fear. “We face a fantastic team tomorrow. FC Goa are at the top of the table on merit. For me, they are the best team in the country and the table doesn’t lie. They have more points than anyone because they have quality. We respect them but do not fear them,” Coyle said at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
For Chennaiyin FC, their centre-back Eli Sabia will miss the match after he picked up a double yellow booking in their previous match against Kerala Blasters. Afghanistan international Masih Saighani might be slotted in his place to partner Lucian Goian at the heart of the defence. Rafael Crivellaro also left the field limping but is expected to be available for Thursday’s match. Coyle will also hope that his star forward Nerijus Valskis maintains his purple patch after the Lithuanian forward scored five goals in the last four games.
The Scot will also depend on Lallianzuala Chhangte who opened his tally for the season against Blasters. His pace and ability to penetrate defences will be of use for Coyle’s side. “We have shown if we could perform as we did against Kerala Blasters, then we can pick up points,” said Coyle.
Even though they clearly have the upper-hand, FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera is cautious and believes that Chennaiyin have found their rhythm under a new coach. “I think, with the new coach, it’s possible to see some changes. Chennai play with more intensity and a good balance of offence and defence,” Lobera said. “It’s not an easy match for us. It’s a very good team in good dynamic after the change of coach. I think John Gregory did a very good job at Chennai but now the reaction of the players with a change of coach is important,” the coach added.