I-League: Out-of-form Gokulam Kerala runs into Chennai City FC

Having stumbled to three defeats in its last four contests, Gokulam Kerala will look for resurgence in an away I-League fixture against Chennai City FC.

Gearing up: Players belonging to Chennai City FC warm up at the Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Thursday.   -  S. Siva Saravanan

Chennai City FC will look to extend its lead at the top of the 12th Hero I-League points table when it takes on Gokulam Kerala FC at home on Friday.

Gokulam has lost three of its last four matches, including to Indian Arrows in an away fixture. Its last victory was in November, 2018.

Chennai, on the other hand, has looked the most accomplished side in this year’s league and deservedly holds the top spot. It suffered a brief blip when it lost four points in two games, but it quickly got back to rhythm with a 6-1 victory against Shillong in the last contest it played.

The two sides have met before. Gokulam’s good run in between began with its first leg 3-2 loss to Chennai; it had put up a spirited display and was unlucky to end up on the losing side of that thrilling contest. Head coach Bino George will do well to remind his wards of that contest to instil some much-needed confidence.

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George will know that his team is one good run away from getting its title aspirations back on track and will take heart from the brilliant comeback it mounted against Aizawl in its last outing. Showering praise on Chennai, he said, “There are some game planners in their team, like Nestor and Sandro, who are creating goals for the strikers but our team are playing good. Even last time we played each other, we were both balanced teams.”

George will be pleased that Joel, his new goal-scoring recruit, opened his account with a brace against Aizawl.

Super Spaniards

Chennai’s Akbar Nawas will look no further than his band of brilliant Spaniards to lord over their opponent once again — 18 of the 22 goals his side has scored have come from them. Pedro Manzi leads the scoring charts for the side, with seven goals, including two hat-tricks, while Nestor Jesus has scored six. Besides contributing his goals, Jesus keeps stamping his authority and class over the league every passing day with his sublime touches and vision.

Bino George, the head coach of the Gokulam Kerala side, will be pleased that Joel, his new goal-scoring recruit, opened his account with a brace against Aizawl. Photo: K. Ragesh

 

Nawas is wary of Gokulam. At the press conference ahead of the contest, he said, “I think Gokulam is a strong team. Whenever they play anywhere, they will go all out to make sure that the game is competitive. Whatever happened in the last game, it is very difficult to reference it, because they might change their tactics, their strategies might change players. We have to be aware of what comes.”

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Chennai will want to guard against any kind of complacency at any stage and will leave no stones unturned to garner full three points at home, knowing that assignments will get tougher as the business end draws nearer.

For both teams — like NEROCA and Shillong in the first contest of the day — the contest will be the 11th game of the season. It begins their second and final league round as well.

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