ISL Season 3: Fitness is the key

The Indian Super League’s tight schedule demands top levels of fitness. The teams that cope with this well will fare better.

Chennaiyin FC’s defender John Arne Riise (right) tackles Atletico de Kolkata’s forward Helder Postiga during an ISL match at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata on October 2. Riise will have to bear a lot of the burden that comes with leading the team, says the columnist.   -  ISL/ SPORTZPICS

Hard tackles, tight defences and passions running high. That’s how the Italians like their football. All of those qualities might be on show at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai on October 6 when Marco Materazzi’s Chennaiyin FC hosts Gianluca Zambrotta’s Delhi Dynamos.

 

The two Italian stalwarts started alongside each other in the World Cup final against France in 2006, helping the Azzuri to win its fourth crown. While that might make them nostalgic at some point, both are focused on the job at hand.

“I know him as a player and not as a coach. I am happy to see him here in India because this is a great chance for him to grow as manager and I wish the best for him,” said Materazzi.

“Yes, we played together for the national team many times but we have also played against each other in the past, though not as managers of course. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow,” observed Zambrotta.

Delhi Dynamos is the only team yet to play in the Indian Super League this season but Zambrotta believes his charges are ready for the challenge.

“I am very happy with the pre-season. We had a good pre-season and I am more than happy with it, but the championship starts tomorrow. We will see tomorrow if we have done a good job. We hope to do a good job,” he said.

The former Juventus and AC Milan full-back wants his team to make the pitch as small as they can but adds that winning should always be the aim.

“For me, it’s important that the team remains compact when we attack as well as when we defend but more importantly it’s important to have the winning mentality. I have come here to win something,” said Zambrotta.

Delhi has no injury concerns ahead of its season opener and has a fully fit squad to choose from.

Defending champion Chennaiyin FC was held to a 2-2 draw by Atletico de Kolkata in its opening game but coach Marco Materazzi insisted there is no pressure on his players to defend the title.

“I think we have to find the difference between pressure and obsession. We don’t have any pressure to win or obsession to become champions because we have already won the tournament last year. It’s a pleasure to defend the title and we will do that until the last match. I am not putting any pressure on the players,” he said.

With the third edition of the league still in its infancy, it is too soon for any team to be feeling the pressure. But the fans will expect Chennaiyin FC to start its home campaign with a bang.

Apart from the injured Dhanachandra Singh, Materazzi has the full squad at his disposal and will hope his team finds its fluency soon.