ISL: CFC coach focusing on curbing Alfaro, Marcelino

Coming off two consecutive victories, FC Pune City enters Sunday's clash against Chennaiyin FC high on confidence, despite the Chennai side winning four of six previous encounters between the teams.

Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelo have been the key elements of Pune City FC's attack this season.   -  PTI

Chennaiyin FC, after a lacklustre season three, is looking a lot more assertive in the ongoing season four of the Indian Super League. With John Gregory replacing Marco Materazzi as the head coach, players such as Rafael Augusto have found a new lease of life and are looking a lot more  confident on the pitch. Host FC Pune City will face a rejuvenated and dangerous Chennai side on Sunday.

The sides played each other recently in a pre-season practice tie, and Pune coach Ranko Popovic felt that CFC was probably the most physically strong side in the league.

Jeje Lalpekhlua and Dhanpal Ganesh of the visiting team are very familiar with the Balewadi stadium, having represented Pune FC in the I-League, and the India spearhead will be eager to strike.

READ: Chennaiyin's Dhanpal Ganesh looks to use ISL as a springboard to national team

FCPC has won two out of three games so far and will play its fourth match in a span of 11 days. Chennai will be playing its third game, having lost to FC Goa and beating North East United FC, and coach Gregory does not feel the side enjoys the advantage of being well-rested. “They are on a very good run at the moment and when you are winning and scoring, players are always ready to play, it (intensity) does not bother you at all. When things don’t go well, it is a ready made excuse.”

Brazilian midfielder Augusto is in excellent form, having scored two goals already, and is revelling after getting the freedom to play a more up-front role. The CFC coach revealed, “Sometimes, when you have an outstanding player who is very creative, he is wasted in your own half. Looking at last season videos, he was doing great work in his half. We just tried to move him up the pitch a bit more.”

Gregory was happy at keeping a clean-sheet against NEUFC, though he understands that his backline will be turned inside out by two match-winners Alfaro and Marcelo in the host's forwardline. “We need to be at our best against Pune. (Emiliano) Alfaro and Marcelino are grabbing headlines, played outstandingly well and scored goals between them.” Marcos Tebar is the third ace in Popovic’s pack.

Stepping into ISL for the first time, the CFC coach is happy at the response from Indian players. “You have to focus on domestic players, make them better because you need them. I inherited some talented Indians like (Anirudh) Thapa, (Baoringdao) Bodo who are raw for the ISL level. Germanpreeet (Singh) made his debut last week, they have got a good future if they grow up very quickly.”

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ISL season four has players ratio ruling (six Indians, five foreigners maximum). Gregory is happy at the focus inward in Chennaiyin. “If I use them (young Indians) properly, they will benefit from it. We have got others at grassroots level coming through. Who knows, one day the ISL might see a whole team full of Indian players. The ones who have come through with us are doing well.”

Pune has not defeated the Chennai side since inception of the league, but as the two teams square-off in Pune, the Popovic is a determined man. “This is one more reason to be motivated," the Pune City coach said during the pre-match media briefing.

"Whatever has happened in the past can be changed; that should be our motivation. But even bigger motivation will be to get all three points. I'm looking forward to one good performance from my players. We need to play well," said Popovic. 


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