After clinching its first win of the Indian Super League (ISL 2023-24) season against Hyderabad FC, Chennaiyin FC (CFC) will aim to build momentum in a home clash against Punjab FC (PFC) at the Nehru Stadium on Sunday.
Owen Coyle’s CFC lost its opening three matches. Currently, it is in the bottom half of the table, with just one win in four matches. But the Scotsman said it is too soon to worry about league standings and stats.
“If we win tomorrow, we will go to the top half of the table. So, it hardly matters at this stage. The game (against Punjab FC) is crucial for both teams, but there are so many matches after that. I will talk about the league table after 22 games,” Coyle told reporters ahead of the clash.
On a defensive front, the Marina Machans have been generous towards their opponents, leaking eight goals in three matches. However, in their last match, their compact defence helped them beat Hyderabad 1-0.
“I think the win gives us a good platform to go and win further matches. A clean sheet always gets you a better chance to win. But we should respect the opposition. They have some very talented players, especially their attackers,” Coyle said.
Despite having talents like Connor Shields, Jordan Murray and Rahim Ali, Chennaiyin’s attack has also disappointed with just two goals on the board so far. But Coyle admitted it would have been more concerning if his team wasn’t creating any chances at all.
“We have the most entries into the final third of the opposition if you want to talk about stats… the chances are definitely coming. The team just needs to be more clinical in front of goal, but it will happen.”
For Punjab FC, the transition from the I-League to ISL hasn’t been seamless, with the team still looking for its first win this season.
“I believe there is a great difference between the two divisions, mainly in terms of the pace. For example, if any team is defending, the players reach their opponent’s area in a few seconds. This transition is much faster than in the I-League. Our team has been trying to adapt to the situation. In some games, we have had difficulties in the first-half, but in the second-half, we have done better,” said PFC head coach Staikos Vergetis.
Vergetis said his team is very receptive during training and is eager to learn, but many of his players have never played in the ISL. So, the process of settling in will take time.
Against Chenaniyin, Vergetis admitted it would be a tricky outing considering its talent on paper and the fact that the team will play in front of home fans.
Asked about Marina Machan’s defensive frailties, Vergetis said, “What’s happened in the past, that does not exist. I am sure they have seen their weaknesses and corrected them. We will need to take advantage of their mistakes, and tomorrow, we will see if we can [or not].”
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