Chennaiyin FC have had a mixed bag so far. After a slippery start to this year’s campaign – losing the first two games – they bounced back emphatically, beating FC Goa 4-0 on their own turf and winning 2-0 against Mumbai FC.
The league-toppers last year are placed fourth on the table with 10 points after drawing against Kerala Blasters in their previous match. They have two home games lined up and with the tournament reaching the halfway mark, Marco Materazzi’s men will look to get a few wins on the trot rather than leave it late.
Stiven Mendoza is on a great run
Once again, the spotlight will be on Chennai’s forwards, headed by Stiven Mendoza, the tournament’s top-goal scorer along with Sunil Chhetri. He has scored six so far in Chennaiyin’s seven games.
The Colombian striker wreaked havoc in the Goan defence last month. He scored a hat-trick, helping his team register their biggest win of the tournament so far.
Mendoza will be aided by the home team’s marquee player Elano, who has the highest number of assists in the tournament. Elano and Mendoza have combined well in this year’s edition and have troubled the opposition defenders.
Goa coach Zico admitted that the duo will be his team’s biggest challenge in tomorrow’s match as well. “They are the main players of Chennaiyin FC. They have been really good for their team. We will do our best to neutralise them.”
Apart from a few key players, Materazzi has constantly made changes to the first XI so far, and it will be interesting to see who he picks for tomorrow’s game.
Khabra is back from suspension
Harmanjot Khabra is most likely to come in. According to Materazzi, the midfielder’s four-match suspension has been reduced to two and will be available for tomorrow’s game. The 26-year-old has been effective as a defensive midfielder and left-back for the Chennai franchise. His presence will boost Chennai’s chances.
Meanwhile, Goa will look to get even with Chennai after losing to them at home. However, Zico insisted that his team won’t be thinking about revenge when they take on the home team tomorrow.
“No. We don’t treat it as a revenge match. If we beat Chennai here and lose the rest then it’s futile. So, we are just here to win our three points. And to do well in every match,” said Zico.
Goa have been hampered by quite a few injuries in this tournament and will be hoping for their replacements to do well.
Goa's replacements for Duffy and Simoes
FC Goa striker Darryl Duffy, who suffered a hairline fracture on his shin against Mumbai FC, will be replaced by Nigerian striker Dudu Omagbemi.
Dudu has played 89 games for Sporting Clube de Goa in the I-League, scoring 73 goals. His rich experience will come in handy for Goa, who have been plagued by injuries this season.
Brazilian striker Rafael Coelho is also expected to figure in the team after he was transferred from Buriram United in Thailand. Rafael replaced fellow Brazilian Victor Simoes, who has flown to Brazil without playing a single match this season.
According to the ISL guidelines, an injured player can be replaced before the start of the 10th round.
Zico acknowledged the unpredictable nature of the tournament and said there are still chances for all the teams to finish in the top four. After a sluggish first half in the first season, Goa managed to finish second after playing well in the latter stages.
“It’s an unpredictable tournament and I think 19-20 points will secure a top-4 spot,” said Zico. And Goa will look to get that as soon as they can.