ISL: Chennaiyin FC's defence wary of FC Goa's attack

Chennaiyin FC will look for a win and reach its second Indian Super League final when it hosts FC Goa in the return leg semifinal, on Tuesday.

Chennaiyin FC players train ahead of Tuesday's semifinal fixture against FC Goa.   -  ISL MEDIA

With an away goal advantage in hand, Chennaiyin FC will hope to cash-in on its home advantage when it hosts FC Goa in the Indian Super League return leg semifinal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday. A win will see John Gregory's men coast their way into their second ISL final.

While the winner will face Bengaluru FC in the final, a goalless draw will allow Chennaiyin to advance. However, if Goa holds the home side to a 1-1 draw, the game will go into extra time. In the event of a 2-2 draw, Goa will book its place in its maiden final by virtue of the away goal rule.

The 2015 champion faced FC Goa in its first league match here and endured a nightmarish 2-3 loss. However, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then and it is Chennaiyin that holds the advantage this time around.

The game would also be a case of Chennaiyin's defence aqainst Goa's attack as the visitor's prolific strikers have topped the scoring charts.

READ: Chennaiyin salvages crucial away goal in drawn affair

Chennaiyin coach Gregory said the team is keen on leaving no stone unturned on Tuesday. "The most important thing is to qualify, whatever it takes. Goa is a team that relies on playing possession football. To get the ball from them, we have to work hard and hold on to it when we get it.

"We know that if we keep a clean sheet, we go through. So that will be our first priority but there are so many permutations that can happen. Of course, if they (Goa) score, it changes the complexion of the game. My players will be very aware of the situation in case we ship a goal. We're all fired up and ready to go," he said, on the eve of the second-leg semifinal.

Gregory's key men would be the midfield duo of Dhanpal Ganesh and Bikramjit Singh along with Mailson Alves and Henrique Sereno to keep the Goa’s forwards at bay. While the coach indicated that Inigo Caledron, who was involved in a bad tackle that left him injured, would be in the starting XI, the focus would be on the experienced Raphael Augusto to make make inroads into Goa's half and build the pressure while Jeje Lalpekhlua would also be keen to get back on the score sheet, after having a barren run for almost seven games.

The coach dismissed the 'away goal advantage' as minimal and said the team isn't thinking about it at all. "The experienced players will help the less experienced ones (in knock-out games). We are a million miles away from getting into the final. We won't get complacent at all. Both teams know what they need to do to qualify," the former Aston Villa coach added.

Goa will be boosted with the return of goalkeeper Naveen Kumar, from suspension. Kumar had kept two clean sheets in three matches before his red card against Jamshedpur FC. Also available for selection will be midfielder Hugo Boumous, who is coming back from an injury.

Goa coach Sergio Lobera said he would be happy to see his team achieve what it did when the two sides clashed in Chennai the last time around. "We need to play the way we know to play. That makes us stronger. We will go out there looking to win the game. We know we are playing a tough team. It is also true that our style of play has risks involved and we end up shipping goals. But if we can win the match 3-2 and I will be happy," he said.

While it was Chennaiyin that upset Goa's applecart in a knockout last time around, Tuesday would offer Goa the best chance at revenge and Chennaiyin will come out all guns blazing to stop a rampaging Goa. A humdinger in store, for sure!

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