New-look Chennaiyin FC eyes glory in ISL 2019-20

Two-time ISL champion Chennaiyin FC, which opted for a massive reshuffling of its squad, will begin its ISL 2019-20 campaign against FC Goa on October 23.

In the five previous editions of the Indian Super League, Chennaiyin FC didn’t make as many changes in its squad as it has in the current season, which is set to begin on October 20.

It had prided itself on retention. This time, there is a near-complete overhaul of the team. Only one foreign player -- Brazil's El Sabia has held his place, and there are more than half-a-dozen new faces in the team. Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory is of the firm opinion that the changes he has made will improve the attack and solidify the defence.

READ | Gregory: Last season was a lesson, won't allow it to happen again

“There has been an extensive change in the team, it is a mixture of young and experienced ones. We will bounce back,” the Englishman said at the team launch here on Thursday.

Anirudh Thapa, a new star on the horizon, and one of the key players of the team, said it’s good to have a bit of change. “A good start will lead to a good end,” he said.

Jeje Lalpekhlua endured a disastrous season last year as he struggled to find the goals. Despite his poor strike rate, Gregory showed complete faith in him. The 28-year-old has recovered from knee surgery and is keen to play in Chennaiyin’s first game (away) against FC Goa on October 23. “Everything is going well right now. I hope to be fit before the first game,” he said.

When a vernacular reporter sought to know why there are only two players from Tamil Nadu, Dhanpal Ganesh and Edwin Vanspaul, in the squad, Ganesh said: “I don’t see that way. There was no professional team in Tamil Nadu, after Indian Bank. Now with Chennai City FC [in I-League], there are more players from the State. In future, there are chances that more players from Tamil Nadu will be there in the Chennaiyin FC squad and the Indian team.” Ganesh, now fully recovered from a knee injury, expressed his desire to feature in the starting XI in all the matches this season.

When a fan asked youngster Rahim Ali on what are his chances of playing since the competition in the attacking department is fierce with Jeje, Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis in the fray, Rahim said: “It will be a good challenge for me. I will fight for my place and the rest the coach will decide.”

Chennaiyin FC full squad for ISL 2019-20

Goalkeepers: Karanjit Singh, Vishal Kaith, Sanjiban Ghosh

Defenders: Eli Sabia (Brazil), Lucian Goian (Romania), Jerry Lalrinzuala, Edwin Vanspaul, Tondonba Singh, Laldinliana Renthlei, Zohmingliana Ralte, Hendry Antonay, Reamsochung Aimol, Deepak Tangri

Midfielders: Dhanpal Ganesh, Masih Saighani (Afghanistan), Thoi Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Germanpreet Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rafael Crivellaro (Brazil), Dragos Firtulescu (Romania)

Forwards: Nerijus Valskis (Lithuania), Andre Schembri (Malta), Jeje Lalpekhlua, Rahim Ali

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