AFC Cup: Minerva Punjab faces Chennaiyin FC in clash of compatriots

Minerva Punjab will play host to Chennaiyin FC in the penultimate group stage clash of the 2019 AFC Cup game at Guwahati's Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Wednesday.

Chennaiyin FC's CK Vineeth and coach John Gregory pose with Minerva gaffer Sachin Badadhe and Thoiba Singh on the eve of their AFC Cup game on Tuesday.   -  Special Arrangement

Chennaiyin FC will resume its 2019 AFC Cup campaign when it takes on Minerva Punjab FC in the penultimate Group E tie at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Wednesday.

Indian Super League side Chennaiyin FC tops Group E owing to a better head-to-head record, while Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka is second, with both sides locked on seven points from four games. Minerva is on the third spot with four points from as many games.

This will be Chennaiyin’s second consecutive away game after having played its opening three group games at home in Ahmedabad. A win for Chennaiyin will help it inch closer to the knockout round, while an unbeaten Minerva will be looking for its first AFC Cup win to keep qualification hopes alive, having drawn all of its games so far.

Chennaiyin and Minerva will be in action after over a month, both their previous outings coming in the AFC Cup matchday three in May. Match fitness will be key in the humid Guwahati conditions in an afternoon kick-off, as both sides aim to hit the ground running following the break.

“You might say we had a break (after our last game in May), but we actually didn't. Before we went away, we were given this big handbook on fitness and conditioning by our team. And we have ensured we stay fit and in shape. We are focused on getting all three points tomorrow (against Minerva) and inching closer to the knockout round,” Chennaiyin forward CK Vineeth said at the pre-match press conference.

“The mood is very good in the camp. We have two important games coming up against Minerva (Punjab) and Manang (Marshyangdi) in Nepal. The professionalism that my boys have portrayed is first class. And they are all aware of the task at hand. What is great is that it is in our hands. We control our destiny. If we win our two remaining group matches, we 100 percent qualify for the knockout round. And if that happens, it will be a huge achievement for everyone associated with the club,” Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory stated.

Both sides will miss personnel in defence through suspension; Chennaiyin center-back Eli Sabia will be out after he picked up his second yellow card of the group stage against Abahani in the 3-2 defeat last month, while Minerva right-back Prateek Joshi will be absent after he saw red in the previous match against Manang.

The Chennaiyin gaffer has aimed at giving exposure to youth, with defender Reamsochung Aimol (19), midfielder Zonunmawia (19) and striker Bawlte Rohmingthanga (20) part of the traveling party to Guwahati.

After the tie against Minerva in Guwahati, Chennaiyin will travel to Nepal for its final group game scheduled for Wednesday June 26 in Nepal, against Manang Marshyangdi Club, which it beat 2-0 in the reverse fixture.

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