Chennai City FC (CCFC) is ambitious yet realistic ahead of the new I-League season - set to begin on January 9. A champion side in 2018-19, CCFC hasn’t had the time to get the team together due to COVID-19 regulations, but is still confident of putting up a good show.

After around two weeks of pre-season at Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research in the city, the team reached Kolkata on December 26, and is now under quarantine at a hotel till January 2.

The club’s head coach Satyasagara on Wednesday said he would have loved at least six weeks of preparation time to get the team together as a unit, but insisted the side would still do its best. “The mood of the camp has been good so far. Preparation wasn’t sufficient. For a pre-season, we needed at least six weeks. We will do our best,” he said.

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CCFC’s midfielder B. Sriram echoed similar views. “Not enough time to prepare, but it’s nice to be back on the field, and we will give a good fight this season,” he said.

Satyasagara said the seven days of quarantine has affected the team mentally, but on the flip side, he added, it has also been an opportunity for the players to know each other better. “We were practicing in Chennai and suddenly the seven days quarantine has mentally affected the players. But we are keeping them united. There is team bonding as we are having yoga in the morning and fitness in the evening,” said the head coach.

The 56-year-old said he expects more from the senior players who have put in a few years with the club. “Ours is not a brand new team. There will be no excuses. The expectation is high. I expect more from the senior players,” he said.

The side takes on Gokulam in the opener on January 9. “Every team is strong. We haven’t had time to analyse Gokulam. They are our arch-rivals. We are looking forward to it,” he said. Satyasagara picked goalkeeper Kabir Thaufiq and midfielder Syed Suhail Pasha as young talents to watch out for. “Kabir has been our second/third choice ‘keeper earlier, but this time he is our first choice, and there is midfielder Suhail, who is very promising,” he said.

According to Satyasagara, I-League will be a platform for players to get recognised and compete in Indian Super League (ISL). "The league is growing in such a way that every players' dream is to play in ISL. Players like Ajith Kumar (Bengaluru FC), Edwin Vanspaul (Chennaiyin FC) and Mashoor [Shereef] (NorthEast United FC) have shown the way," he said.