I-League 2018: Bottom-placed Aizawl gears for daunting Chennai City challenge

Aizawl FC will eye its first win of the season when it hosts current leader Chennai City FC in the I-League on Friday.

Aizawl FC currently sits at the bottom of the I-League table with two points from four matches.   -  AIFF MEDIA

Table-topper Chennai City FC (CCFC) will be looking to continue its fine start to the I-League when it takes on former champion Aizawl FC at the latter’s home here at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium on Friday afternoon.

Chennai City comes into the tie high on momentum after clinching a thrilling 2-1 win over East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium in its previous outing.

Lurking at the bottom of the league table with just two points from two draws (and losing the other two), Aizawl is hard pressed to pick up points at home and make a turnaround.

RELATED| Chennai City FC trumps East Bengal 2-1

Chennai City’s Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas admitted his side is in for a tough challenge. “We are going to have a tricky time against Aizawl FC. A team that is looking for the first win will always look to go all out. So, we will have to forget about our win against East Bengal and focus on delivering the best against Aizawl,” he said ahead of the match.

CCFC's attacking approach this season can be credited to the arrival of four Spaniards – striker Pedro Manzi, attacking midfielders Nestor Gordillo and Sandro Rodriguez and central defender Roberto Eslava – who have formed the team's spine.

From left to right: Pedro Manzi Javier, Roberto Eslava Suarez, Mohammad Akbar Nawas (Chennai City coach), Sandro Rodriguez Felipe, Nestor Gordillo.   -  Aashin Prasad

 

“The Spanish players are trying to play their best game individually and that is helping the local players raise their level. If the foreigners are playing at level six during practice then their Indian colleagues are looking to improve to that stage. I like this healthy competition where both the Indians and the foreigners are pushing themselves to reach a higher level of excellence,” Akbar noted.

Chennai City is certainly benefitting from a two-month pre-season it held at home in Coimbatore. “We did not expect this kind of a start but it shows our training before the tournament has been in the right direction,” he said. “In football things change very fast. The dynamics of the sport is like that. On our part we have to keep trying and improve the levels of performance. We are presently at level three or four on a scale of 10 and we will strive to go higher as the tournament progresses,” he added.

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“We have to remain humble and stick to our game plan of trying to win every match we play,” he concluded.

Aizawl coach Gift Raikhan gave the clarion call to his side, asking the players to give their best to the team. “I want the players to make the sacrifice for the side. I want to see blood inside the ground. The result will soon follow,” Raikhan made the statement metaphorically while hoping that his boys deliver to their potential.

Aizawl lost a bulk of its team and head coach (Khalid Jamil) immediately after the triumph in 2016-2017 edition, forcing the club to look for a new set of players.  

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Raikhan, who saw NEROCA FC finish a close runner-up to champion Minerva FC last season, has been trying to rebuild the Aizawl side this season. “Players are a bit down because of the results we managed so far but the good things are yet to come,” the Manipuri coach said.

“We have produced a lot of chances in the previous matches but have not been able to score (because we made) small errors. Now it is upon us to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes,” Raikhan added.

Chennai City FC stormed to the top of the I-League table after its 2-1 win over East Bengal on Tuesday.   -  I-LEAGUE

 

While Chennai City's foreign players have made an immediate impact in the league, Aizawl's outstation players such as Alfred Jaryan, Ansumana Kromah (both Liberians) and Leonce Dodoz (Ivory Coast) have failed to dazzle owing to injuries and lack of form.

“We have foreigners who are not 100 percent fit while most of the Indians are young and raw. We are hoping that the team begins to perform to its potential very soon,” Raikhan said, hoping that the turnaround begins from the upcoming match.