Chennaiyin FC will look to end its season on a winning note as it plays NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday.
With nothing to play for but pride, Chennaiyin, which is eighth in the table with 24 points, will start as favourites against the Highlanders, who are bottom of the table with five points and just one win in the season till now.
Despite the match being a dead rubber, Chennaiyin head coach Thomas Brdaric made his intentions clear.
“The preparation is not different. We are professionals and want to defeat them at home tomorrow, in front of our fans,” Brdaric told the media ahead of the match.
The Marina Machans come into the match on the back of a thrilling 2-1 win against FC Goa courtesy of a brace by Ghanaian striker Kwame Kakrikari, while NorthEast suffered a 1-3 defeat against Odisha FC in its last match.
Chennaiyin captain Anirudh Thapa will aim to finish strongly after a disappointing season, where he found the net just once in 15 matches. Even though the goals have dried up for the midfielder, he has complete backing from the manager.
“We all know about his [Thapa’s] potential. He is a national player. He has played out of position but has always helped the team. I am proud because he has never complained,” Brdaric added.
NorthEast United head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese described the loss against Odisha as a “sad game,” but said that his team had ample time to prepare for the concluding match against Chennaiyin.
“We have to believe in ourselves. The more experience comes, the more this team can improve,” Annese said.
Abdenasser El Khayati is likely to remain absent through injury. Unless Brdaric goes for a complete revamp, Samik Mitra will start between the sticks, with Edwin Vanspaul, Fallou Diagne, Vafa Hakhamaneshi, and Aakash Sangwan constituting the back four.
Julius Duker, Jiteshwor Singh and Anirudh Thapa will oversee proceedings in the midfield, while Vincy Barretto and Rahim Ali will be in the flanks, hoping to service Karikari.
For NorthEast, Annese will most probably start Arindam Bhattacharya in goal. Hira Mondal, who started against Odisha, can make the back four, along with Alex Saji, Aaron Evans, and Tondonba Singh.
Gani Nigam and Joseba Beitia will make the midfield two. Jithin M.S., Jordan and Parthib Gogoi will be the front three and will play behind lone striker Kule Mbombo.
The two teams have faced each other 17 times in the ISL, with both winning six each and five games ending in a draw.
In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Chennaiyin secured a thumping 7-3 victory against NorthEast.
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