I-League: Chennai hoping to turn things around under new coach

Chennai City FC, which is at home to Mumbai FC on Saturday, will be desperate for a win even as it lies at the bottom of the heap with four points.

K. Pichumani

Chennai City FC players during a practice session under the watchful eyes of new coach V. Soundararajan.   -  K. Pichumani

Chennai City FC, which is at home to Mumbai FC on Saturday, will be desperate for a win even as it lies at the bottom of the heap with four points. The club recently made a change in management after it replaced Robin Charles Raja with V. Soundararajan, with assistant coach Andrew Oakley also getting the boot.

Soundararajan, who has previously taken charge of the Tamil Nadu Santosh Trophy side, said: “After 10 years I’ve been given a good opportunity. It’s an honour. Yes, we are at the bottom of the table, but I’m confident of the challenge ahead.”

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With new management comes new philosophy and coach Soundararajan confirmed he will be looking to bring in his style. “I’m very surprised a good team like this conceded these many goals. I will make the team play compact and not let the opposition penetrate our defence through the middle. They can take their chance through the wings, but I’m confident of our defenders.”

Tank to be dropped?

The new coach was critical of the burly Brazilian striker Marcos “Tank” Vinicius, who has been the goal-source for the team. “Compared to Charles de Souza (the other Brazilian striker in the team) Marcos is slower. He has the physical advantage but not the flexibility of movement a striker should have.

“We will play 4-4-1-1 with Charles de Souza leading the line. We could see local player A. Raegan getting a chance tomorrow,” the coach averred.

Soundararajan will, however, have to do without two key players as ‘keeper Karanjit Singh and Haroon Amiri are likely to miss Saturday’s encounter through injuries.

Mumbai looking to stem the rot

Mumbai FC will also look to turn around its season after a promising start, as it comes into the game on the back of five consecutive losses. Mumbai is sixth with six points but it has conceded the second most goals (12) in the league this season. Coach Santosh Kashyap said: “We started the season well with two consecutive wins but we then lost some tough away games. We have been conceding silly goals and injuries to key players made things worse.

“The pitch we played on against Minerva Punjab was very bad but five losses in a row is not acceptable. But I believe we have come out of that phase.”

New signing Mehrajuddin Wadoo, who is no stranger to Chennai thanks to his exploits in the Indian Super League with Chennaiyin FC, will be making his Mumbai debut on Saturday.

“I signed for Mumbai only yesterday and am happy to be here. We are desperate for a win and hopefully we can turn our season around tomorrow,” he said.

“I don’t consider myself a hero here. I was lucky to have two great seasons here (Chennai). But I’m just focussing on tomorrow’s game.”

The visiting Mumbai side also has injury concerns with Thoi Singh and Lalchhawnkima all but ruled out.