Indian top-flight football returns after the international break as Chennaiyin FC (CFC) hosts East Bengal FC (EB) in an Indian Super League (2023-24) match at the Nehru Stadium on Saturday.
Both Chennaiyin and East Bengal come into the match on the back of defeats in their last matches, against FC Goa and Kerala Blasters, respectively.
Before the loss against Goa, the Marina Machans seemed to have found their tempo with back-to-back wins against Hyderabad FC and Punjab FC. East Bengal, however, has looked deficient in all departments, with Carles Cuadrat’s men managing to notch just one win in five outings in the league.
For CFC head coach Owen Coyle, past form goes out of the window, and he stressed that complacency will be his team’s biggest enemy against the Red and Gold.
“I think they have been a bit unfortunate with some of their games. They have played very well - even in the matches against Kerala and Goa. So, we are under no illusions. The break will have been good for both teams, where the lads would have spent time with their family. After coming back, I am sure both teams have put in hard work,” Coyle said.
EB head coach Carles Cuadrat mirrored his counterpart’s thought process about the international break and said he was pleased with the work put in by the players during and after the break.
“We had to take advantage of the break. We’re happy that the team got more training sessions during the break, more than any other team in the competition. Also, we played a friendly against an I-League team (TRAU). It shows that we’re focused on the project and want to get the team to be more competitive.
The Spanish coach said that despite a disappointing start, one win can spark momentum for his team, “Chennaiyin started their season with three losses in a row, but a good result allowed them to get six points. They changed their dynamic and got two wins in a row. We know that we need to change the momentum and dynamic. When we are mentally strong enough, we will get the points,” Cuadrat added.
How can the teams shape up?
The Marina Machans will have to cope without the services of left-back Akash Sangwan, who continues to recover from a training injury.
Barring last-minute changes, the Scotsman is expected to go with his preferred 4-2-3-1 shape, with Ankit Mukherjee, Bikash Yumnam, and Ryan Edwards forming the backline. They will, most probably, be joined by the 22-year-old Sachu Siby, who filled Sangwan’s shoes in CFC’s last match against Goa.
Cristian Battocchio and Ayush Adhikari will be the double pivot and play the transitional role between the defenders and the forwards, along with shielding the backline.
In the frontline, Jordan Murray might replace Connor Shields and operate with Farukh Chowdhury on the flanks. Veteran midfielder Rafael Crivellaro will play the No.10 role behind Rahim Ali.
For the Red and Gold, Cuadrat said that Borja Herrera has a slight niggle, but he should have his preferred starting XI available, with the Spaniard likely to go with with a traditional 4-4-2 for more firepower up front.
Goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill will likely have a backline of Mohamad Rakip, Lalchungnunga, Jose Pardo and Mandar Rao in front of him.
Nandhakumar Sekar and Mahesh Singh Naorem will look to trouble CFC’s inexperienced wing-backs and will be aided by Saul Crespo and Harmanjot Khabra in the middle of the park.
Upfront, Cuadrat will depend on his attacking duo of Cleiton Silva and Javier Siverio to make things happen in the final third.
Inconsistency has plagued Chennaiyin and East Bengal this season, and by Coyle’s admission, both teams should ideally be in a better position. While the Scotsman said that he has nothing but praises for Cuadrat and his managerial stature, he firmly believes Chennaiyin can beat any team in the league on its day.
“Even in the matches we lost, like the one against Goa, we did not take our chances and played better in patches. It all comes down to dominating the match for a larger period - not just 20 or 30 minutes,” added Coyle.
CFC starts the match seventh in the league with six points from six matches, while East Bengal is 10th with four points from five.
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