I-League: Chennai hosts DSK Shivajians

A victory will help Chennai City FC leap-frog DSK, which is currently seventh with 10 points (Chennai is 10th with 8 points), in the I-League points table.

Charles de Souza will spearhead the Chennai City FC attack alongside Haroon Amiri.   -  M. VEDHAN

In a League where the bottom four teams are separated by just two points, every point is crucial. And DSK Shivajians’ head coach Dave Rogers knows it all too well, as his team visits Chennai City FC, for a crucial I-League encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

“Every match is a must-win in this league. We can say we were unlucky in a lot of matches — we hit the crossbar against Churchill Brothers the other day and the next minute we were a goal down. Ultimately, football is about taking those chances. I am a firm believer in the ‘where you finished is where you deserved to finish’ philosophy. We were unlucky in some matches but we will go into the match against Chennai fully prepared,” said Rogers in a pre-match press-conference here.

Tank to start

A victory will help Chennai leap-frog DSK, which is currently seventh with 10 points (Chennai is 10th with 8 points), in the I-League points table. “After the narrow loss against Aizawl, it is important that the team bounces back. We will go all-out against DSK Shivajians,” said a confident Chennai coach V. Soundararajan. He said his team would employ all four foreign players in the squad against DSK, including the controversial Brazilian Marcus Tank.

Chennai City had sacked coach Robin Charles Raja mid-season after he had refused to buy into the club’s policy of promoting home-grown talent. But Soundararajan, his replacement, believes that the foreign players now understand the club better and is confident that they can influence the side in a positive way. “All the players understand their role in the team now. We had a few issues with Tank, but all problems have been ironed out,” said the Chennai coach, who can call on local players like A. Raegan and Soosai Raj from the bench if the foreigners misfire.

Tank is expected to play in the left-wing in a 4-4-2 formation, spearheaded by Charles de Souza and Haroon Amiri. Nandhakumar will operate on the right flank with Dhanpal Ganesh and Zakeer Mundampara manning the central midfield.

Injury concerns for both the sides

Zakeer’s return to full fitness will come as a boost for coach Soundararajan with Denson Devdas set to miss the next few matches with a knee injury. Shivajians’ striker Kim Song Yong is expected to miss the remainder of the season due to a ligament injury and the visiting team will also miss the services of Sumeet Passi and Sacha Kolunjia.

Coach Rogers admitted it’s a big loss for the team, but expressed full confidence that his young squad would rise to the occasion. “We have been travelling a lot. I think we have taken some 14 flights in four weeks and stayed in multiple hotels. While it’s a loss for the team to miss out on a few players, it is also an opportunity for the youngsters. I am a coach who is not afraid to give the young boys the opportunity. I have seen them train. I have been with them for three years. They will do well,” Rogers said.

‘Two’ much football?

Chennai City has been playing in the Chennai Football Association (CFA) senior division league simultaneously, unlike other I-League teams, but coach Soundararajan doesn’t find it a problem. “It gives the young players an opportunity to gain some confidence. Even Zakeer wanted to play in the league to gain match fitness,” he said. Nandhakumar scored the winner for Chennai City in its last CFA match and the coach is hoping that the youngster would continue his good run.

Jerry’s home-coming

DSK Shivajians is a club that takes pride in promoting young footballers and runs one of India’s best football academies in Pune in partnership with Premier League side Liverpool FC. Six players from the team have been named in the provisional national squad for the game against Cambodia on March 22. One of the team’s brightest stars this season has been the AIFF Elite Academy product Jerry Lalrinzuala.

The 18-year-old came into the limelight during his spell at Chennaiyin FC in the 2016 Hero Indian Super League season and expressed his happiness in returning to the city that made him a star. “It’s great to be back in the city after the ISL,” said the left-back.

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