Being meticulous and in possession of an astute footballing mind were once necessary traits in an Italian. Marco Materazzi, when he was a player, was identified as being one. Now in his second year as Chennaiyin FC manager, he is slowly building up his managerial profile in a similar way.
Stung by an acute shortage of time last year, which in-turn hampered his team’s preparations, an almost month-long pre-season camp was organised in Perugia, Italy, this time.
Then, even as he retained the attacking edge given by the South American trio of Elano, John Stiven Mendoza and Bruno Pelissari, which scored 16 of the 27 goals for the team in 2014, the likes of Fikru Teferra from title-winning Atletico de Kolkata have been added.
By also holding on to defender Bernard Mendy and midfielder Harmanjot Khabra the Italian has ensured that the core remains the same; a trait the club perhaps share with the city’s Indian Premier League franchise, the Chennai Super Kings. Goalkeeping was an area of concern and hence Apoula Edel, also from Atletico, who probably made the save of the tournament in the final last year, was swiftly poached.
Bengaluru FC’s tough-tackling midfielder Thoi Singh could prove an important addition if Materazzi chooses to use a shield in front of his defence. It’s a role he himself performed last year but with age, a repeat performance looks unlikely.
At the start of last year’s edition, the club were not deemed good enough to reach the business end. Yet, they topped the league stage and eventually finished semifinalists. A year on, with a pre-season under their belt and an impressive looking squad on paper, they find themselves saddled with the favourites’ tag. Managing that weight of expectation in the sophomore year will be their biggest challenge.
Goalkeepers: Apoula Edel, Nidhin Lal and Karanjit Singh.
Defenders: Mailson Alves, Abhishek Das, Eder, Lalhmangaihsanga, Bernard Mendy, Alessandro Potenza, Dhanachandra Singh, Justin Stephen and Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
Midfielders: Raphael Augusto, Manuele Blasi, Elano, Godwin Franco, Dhanpal Ganesh, Harmanjot Khabra, Zakeer Mundampara, Bruno Pelissari and Thoi Singh.
Strikers: Fikru, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Stiven Mendoza, Jayesh Rane and Balwant Singh.