Chennaiyin FC (CFC) has turned things in remarkable fashion under coach Owen Coyle, that is seldom witnessed in the short history of the Indian Super League (ISL).
From being placed ninth in the table after the first six matches, CFC has fought back in style and has now remained unbeaten in the last nine games, a club record.
With a 4-1 cushion over FC Goa recorded in the first semifinal leg in Chennai, CFC will be brimming with confidence and will be the favourite in the second-leg here when the two teams clash at the Nehru Stadium on Saturday. Goa will need to win the match by a margin of more than three goals to envision hopes of making it to the summit clash.
The 53-year-old Scotsman sounded optimistic of his team’s chances of making it to the final. “In the last eight games, we [CFC] took the most points than anybody. We know we have good players, we have shown the desire and the fire. We didn’t lose in the last five away games where we have shown different aspects to our play,” he said.
Clifford Miranda, interim coach of Goa, said, though it might appear difficult for his team, he insisted that his team would fight till the finish. “To overcome the [goal] deficit, we have to fight till the final whistle. But this particular game has a different dynamic. We have our back to the wall. We will try everything we have,” he said.
Goa has been strengthened with the return of three key players -- Hugo Boumous, Brandon Fernandes and Edu Bedia -- all of whom missed the first leg. Miranda was happy to have them back. “Their absence was felt not in terms of scores but as a group. It is a different environment when you have all the players,” he said.
CFC forward Andre Schembri described the change in fortunes of his club to the change in management. “There was a change in management, a change in philosophy and a change in mindset, and a change in culture,” he said.
Goa’s midfielder Boumous exhorted his players to remain confident. “ It’s not easy but we can do it. There is no dearth in motivation, we have to manage the mental side and keep calm during the game,” he said.
CFC will be eager to ride the momentum while the home team would depend on the team’s innate attacking strengths and the home crowd support.
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