Chennai City FC didn’t have the best of pre-season. It exited Durand Cup in the group stages while also losing all its matches at the Sheikh Kamal International Cup in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
When the defending champion takes on the Tiddim Road Athletic Union FC (TRAUFC), a debutant and winner of the I-League second division, in the Hero I-League at the Nehru Stadium here on Sunday, it knows it cannot rest on its past glory.
For a team that has retained the core of its overseas players from last season and also added new foreign signings in Katsumi Yusa and Fito Miranda, the pre-season was a learning curve in identifying the right local talent, according to head coach Akbar Nawas.
“In the Durand Cup, our plan was to give new players a chance. We wanted to select the right [Indian] players for I-League. The Sheik Ahmed tournament, where we tested the fitness regimen of the players, was a good indicator of where we stood. As I have said earlier we are not Mohun Bagan or East Bengal to have continuity at such a high level,” he said.
TRAUFC, Akbar conceded, is no pushover. “A team from Manipur is always tough because they run, run and run you down.”
Douglas De Silva, TRAUFC’s new coach, said City will be the favourite to win. “Of course, the momentum will be with City for the wonderful games they played last season. [But] we are here to fight as we have young team with foreigners [five Africans and one from Brazil], from whom we expect quite a bit,” he said.
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