Chennaiyin hosts NorthEast United in must-win encounter

Defending champion Chennaiyin FC will host John Abraham-owned NorthEast United FC in a crucial encounter for both teams. With both teams lying in the bottom-half of the Indian Super League (ISL) points table (NorthEast and Chennaiyin are sixth and seventh respectively, tied on 14 points), both the sides will be looking for a win to increase their chances of making it to the play-offs.

Chennaiyin FC defeated North East in Guwahati in the previous fixture.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Defending champion Chennaiyin FC will host John Abraham-owned NorthEast United FC in a crucial encounter for both teams. With both teams lying in the bottom-half of the Indian Super League (ISL) points table (NorthEast and Chennaiyin are sixth and seventh respectively, tied on 14 points), both the sides will be looking for a win to increase their chances of making it to the play-offs.

While Chennaiyin has impressed in patches, the team without previous seasons’ stars, striker Stiven Mendoza and play-maker Elano, has found it hard to finish off matches after being in commanding positions – something manager Marco Materazzi pointed out as the reason for his team’s poor title defence.

“Maybe more than Elano it’s Bruno (Pelissari) who we miss the most. If you remember, Elano was injured in the final few matches of last season and it was Bruno who made the difference. First year Elano was very good and we might have won the title if he had stayed fit,” said Materazzi, who was speaking at the pre-match press conference.

“But we have wasted too many chances to win matches, such as the season opener against Atletico (de Kolkata) or the match against FC Pune City, where we conceded a late goal. We didn’t play up-to our expectations but we still have an outside chance. We will try to get maximum points from our remaining two games and hope other results will help us,” added the manager.

Nelo Vingada: “We have only two options – win or win”

NorthEast United pulled off a victory against FC Pune City in its previous match to end its six-game win-less run and gain much-needed momentum – something manager Nelo Vingada believes is essential as the team enters a ‘crucial’ period in ISL.

“Even though we lost a few games, the performances weren’t bad. But in football only the results matter. Tomorrow our target is to win and be in the hunt for a place in the play-offs. We know it will be difficult but if Chennai can win in Guwahati we can win here,” said the NorthEast United manager.

“Our stability is better than a few weeks ago (after the win against FC Pune City). But my words are the same as what I said prior to the Pune match. We have only two options – win or win. A draw would have been bad for us even though mathematically we would not be out (of play-off contention)," added Vingada.

The manager confirmed that defender Gustavo Lazzaretti is recovering from his injury while Robin Gurung and Nirmal Chettri are expected to be available for selection.

“Gustavo is in better shape than others but we can’t take risks regarding getting them back as it can kill them for the rest of the competition,” said Vingada.

Indian midfielder Rowllin Borges, who has been a star for the Highlanders in the midfield, is suspended for the match.

With four teams separated by just a point in the bottom-half of the League table, a win for either side will move them into the top four.

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