Chennayin, Blasters battle to escape from the bottom

Chennayin FC, who will have to win their four remaining games to mathematically possess a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals, will face Kerala Blasters, also facing a similarly daunting task ahead, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.

Marco Materazzi was concerned about the limited recovery time for his team, as compared to their prospective opponents, following their contest in Chennai on Saturday.   -  R. Ragu

With Chennayin FC and Kerala Blasters lingering at the bottom of the table, they will be keen to put up an impressive show to qualify for the semis. Chennaiyin FC are at the bottom of the table with 10 points from 10 matches, while Kerala Blasters have 11 points and are just above their rivals, in the seventh spot. Chennayin will have to win their remaining four matches to have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the semi finals. Kerala are in a tough situation as well.

Comparing the momentum of the teams, Kerala have won two, drawn one, and lost one in their last four matches, whereas Chennaiyin have no victories (with three losses) in their previous four games. But Materazzi was more concerned about their recovery period than their form.

“The only thing I am concerned about is that they have more days for recovery. We have only two days,” said the coach. He was referring to the fact that the Blasters will take on Mumbai City FC only on Thursday — after a four-day gap — whereas Chennaiyin will have to play the second-placed Delhi Dynamos two days after their upcoming Kerala tie.

Despite Kerala’s win in their previous match against North East United FC, Materazzi said they will be under pressure, like Chennaiyin, to win on Saturday. “Kerala had a good game against North East. But they, too, have to be at their best. So, it’s [going to] be a good game,” he said.

Materazzi has been shuffling his defenders almost throughout the tournament, and will be expecting them to be at their best in this crucial stage. He said that he wasn’t particularly worried about the defence. “I actually play the same defence. Because [Mehrajuddin] Wadoo was always playing, [Dhanachandra Singh] was always playing. I switch the central defenders because of my personal choice. I am not worried about the defence in particular,” Materazzi said.

The coach, however, admitted that his team has sometimes allowed the opposition to counter-attack, which has cost them a few games. “The only thing now is that we sometimes concede counter-attacks. Now all the teams know that and they will play on that,” he added.

'Plenty of confidence'

Meanwhile, Blasters, who are fresh after last Sunday’s win, will look to carry their momentum.

“We are going into this game with plenty of confidence. There will be a few nerves but if we can get our players to get going, it will be exciting. Hopefully we will get a positive result,” Blasters’ coach Terry Phelan said.

Blasters’ results have improved since Phelan took over as coach and it might be due to his attacking mindset. He has tweaked the team’s formation, and it seems to be working. “The way we have played, the change from 3-5-2, has given our attackers more freedom. We have some good attacking players in our team. They have to defend. In 3-5-2, they have to work hard to defend.

May be in the system we are playing at the moment, we have not given them that much defensive responsibility. So we are saying, go and stay high up the pitch and cause all the damage you can,” Phelan said.

Despite expecting a tight game tomorrow, Phelan said that his team will be full on confidence following their recent win. “Obviously it's very tight. For both teams it's perhaps a must win. It's going to be bit nerve wracking at the start,” added the coach.

Rains are forecasted for tomorrow evening but the newly upgraded drainage system at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is not likely to let it affect the game too much.

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