Confident Chennai take on a tottering Mumbai

Marco Materazzi's Chennaiyin FC will host Anelka's Mumbai City FC in the ISL tomorrow. The match is a must-win encounter for both the teams, to keep their hopes of reaching the seminals alive.

John Steven Mendoza Valencia of Chennaiyin FC celebrates after scoring a goal against Mumbai City FC. Chennai won the reverse fixture 2-0.   -  Sportzpics

After being on par in the midway stage of the tournament, Chennaiyin FC and Mumbai City FC’s results have varied greatly. The former lost their next three games (eighth, ninth, and tenth), before staging a remarkable comeback to put themselves on the brink of the semifinals. As for the Mumbai team, they haven’t won a match since then.

For a team that probably looked the strongest on paper before the tournament, Mumbai had a few bad games after the midway stage — the worst against Goa, where they lost 7-0. Now, the team is not guaranteed a semifinal berth even if they win their last two league games. They will also have to hope that FC Pune City draws their next two games (against NorthEast United FC and Chennaiyin FC).

Nicolas Anelka, who has been disappointed as the Mumbai coach, wanted his team to win their first away game of the season and keep their chances alive. “Yes, we are mathematically in. We know we have to win the game. We still believe in it. In football anything is possible,” he said.

Anelka not expected to play

The former Real Madrid star, however, is not likely to figure in tomorrow’s must-win encounter due to an injury. But he said that the team can win without him. “We put the best team to play Chennai. We know Chennaiyin very well. They have a fast player like Mendoza, so we have to be careful. It’s going to be a hard game. But I don’t think the team needs me to win,” Anelka said.

After coming down hard on Sunil Chhetri in a previous press conference, Anelka hoped that the Indian skipper has a good game tomorrow.

“He [Chhetri] is clever and technically good. He is more of a midfielder than a striker. But he can score because he’s clever. He’s scored well in the beginning. He is struggling a bit now. But he gives it all when he is on the pitch. He has done well before and I hope he continues,” said the coach-cum-marquee player.

Most important game of the tournament: Materazzi

Meanwhile, the home team, Chennaiyin FC, will look to gain momentum from their last two wins. Playing with an attacking 4-3-3 combination, they thrashed Kerala Blasters and Delhi Dynamos, 4-1 and 4-0, respectively. A win in the next two games will confirm Chennaiyin’s semifinal berth.

Calling tomorrow’s game the “most important of the tournament”, the Chennai club’s coach Marco Materazzi acknowledged his players for winning two consecutive games after their 2-1 loss to Atletico de Kolkata.

“Our guys did good in winning two games [after the Kolkata game]; now two more games are left. They will create the third chance. But, in the end, it is the players who make the difference. I just help them from outside,” said the coach.

Khabra will be missed

Materazzi snapped his ID card in fury when midfielder Harmanjot Khabra got a yellow card in Chennai’s last game. The Punjab-based player has been an integral part of the home team’s midfield and his absence would affect them.

Bruno Pelissari has started in place of the marquee player Elano Blumer in the previous two games as the latter had fitness issues. But with Elano declaring himself fit to start, Materazzi might find it tough to choose between the two, as Bruno was terrific in the last two games.

Materazzi, however, said that the team counts above the individual. “Elano’s a smart guy; he knows what’s best for the team. Everyone has to understand that it's important to be a team and play as one. So, far, it has been good. We have won two consecutive games. We hope to win more,” he said.