Chennaiyin FC hosts NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday with both teams looking for one final push to make it to the playoffs.
Since replacing John Gregory, the home side’s results under Owen Coyle have been positive. It has taken seven points from five games under him, which is two more than it did in six matches under the now-departed Englishman.
The next two games could have a big say in the two-time champion’s quest to break into the top four. Following the game against the Highlanders , it hosts Jamshedpur FC – which is right above it in the table – before tough away games against Bengaluru FC and ATK follow.
And Coyle acknowledged the tough job he has at hand. “Everyone is craving the playoff chances and to do that we have to be consistent and winning games,” he said speaking at the pre-match press conference. “Three points are valuable because more often than not there are more draws in the league, so three points can catapult you up the table.”
In the other dugout, Robert Jarni has more issues to deal with than his counterpart while also looking for an unlikely top-four position.
Having started the season well, being unbeaten in the first six games, the side from Guwahati has picked up just one point from its last four games – the kind of form that can end a team’s season. And the Croatian admitted it.
“We lost our opportunity when we lost a couple of matches in the last seconds of the game,” he said. “But we have a young, promising team and it is a chance for them to get the experience that will help them grow.”
To add to the Croatian’s woes is Asamoah Gyan’s season-ending injury. The club is expected to sign a new striker, among others, shortly and Jarni confirmed that the official announcements will be made soon.
Only two teams have conceded more than Chennaiyin this season while NEUFC has scored the fewest goals.
The home team will be missing the services of midfielder Germanpreet Singh due to a suspension but Coyle said he has “a solution”, one he believes “will work very well”.
Dhanpal Ganesh was last seen in the matchday squad at the end of last year – against FC Goa. The 28-year-old, who was lacking match fitness, could give Coyle a boost after he played the full match in a closed-doors friendly against the B side on the weekend.
Alongside Gyan, NEUFC will also miss the services of Jose Leudo after he was sent off in the game against FC Goa.
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