I-League: Defending champion Chennai City keen to extend winning run

Gokulam Kerala, on the other hand, will look to return to winning ways after dropping points against TRAU and Real Kashmir in its last two matches.

A slice of action from the match between Gokulam Kerala and Chennai City FC - S. Siva Saravanan   -  S. Siva Saravanan

The last time Chennai City and Gokulam Kerala met, five goals were scored and three men were sent off.

A month later, the two southern giants come face to face once again in the I-League. On Wednesday night at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the defending champion will be keen to extend its winning run while Gokulam will be determined to avenge that 2-3 defeat at home.

Having won both their last games, against Indian Arrows (1-0) and Churchill Brothers (2-1), Akbar Nawas’s boys must indeed be in a confident frame of mind. Those were much-needed wins, having previously lost two games on the trot, to East Bengal (0-2) and Mohun Bagan (2-3).

As for the Gokulam match, they could also seek inspiration from history: in their four meetings in the I-League, they have won the last three, after losing the first one.

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But nobody could afford to take the Kerala side lightly, even if it may have been rather inconsistent this season, despite starting out as one of the favourites for the title. It would be desperate to turn its season around after two forgettable matches.

It had the upper hand both against TRAU and Real Kashmir, but all it could gather was just one point. It was held 1-1 by the team from Manipur and was stunned 0-1 by the one from Kashmir.

Akbar Nawas said Gokulam is a tough opponent. “But we should have won at Kozhikode more comfortably after taking a 3-0 lead,” he said. “They have some fine players like Marcus Joseph and Henry Kisekka.”

They are the key men for Gokulam. Of the team’s 12 goals, they have accounted for 10. But, the problem is, if they fail – as they did against Kashmir – so does Gokulam.

Coach Fernando Santiago Valera would certainly want others to contribute, too. He would also have to worry about keeping in check Chennai’s dangerous duo up front, Adolfo Miranda and Katsumi Yusa.

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