ISL: Resolute Chennaiyin FC faces goal-shy ATK in 'Clash of Champions'

Chennaiyin has won two games in a row while ATK is yet to register a victory in this year's ISL.

Chennaiyin FC players during a training session on the eve of their Indian Super League match against Atletico de Kolkata at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

Chennaiyin FC’s manager John Gregory does not have fond memories of previous encounters involving his opposite number — Teddy Sheringham — for Thursday night’s fixture. Gregory, who coached English Premier League side Aston Villa, said he returned with defeats each time he visited Teddy Sheringham’s Manchester United.

This time around, when ATK visits Chennaiyin at the Marina Arena, Gregory feels the two managers will square off on equal footing in their maiden face-off on Indian soil. “Like me, he is a novice here in India. Both have some sort of standing in many respects but India is new to both of us,” Gregory said during the pre-match press conference.

Chennaiyin will be heading into the game full of confidence after it displayed a strong response following the opening day defeat to FC Goa. A tweak in the system, switching from three at the back to a four-man defence, and it has won two on the trot with no goals against its name in 225 minutes of football.

Read - Sheringham: Eugeneson out for a little while

“It shows the characters that I have on the team — real passion and deep-lying characters — players that will keep going regardless of what’s happening on the pitch. The experienced guys and also the six Indian boys played very well against Goa in the second half,” said Gregory, whose side is second only on goal difference on the points table — behind Bengaluru FC.

CFC will be also be boosted by the fact that ATK’s marquee signing Robbie Keane will have to wait to make his ISL debut. Keane had missed the first three matches due to an Achilles injury and his manager felt that the Chennaiyin fixture has come “far too early” for the Irish forward.

Champion ATK, languishing at the bottom with two points and no wins, will also be without key midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh (knee). This will only add to the worries for Sheringham, whose side has found goals hard to come by.

“We have only scored one goal and it was from a free-kick. We need to be converting our possession and chances into goals. Two nil-nil draws we had, we could quite possibly have won the match. We have edged games, but we have to score goals to win games,” expressed the former Manchester United forward.

Although the match is billed as the ‘Clash of Champions’ by the TV media, Sheringham would be happy with a draw at the home of the 2015 champion. “Crowds do have a say in a match. Effect of playing at home is easier than away. A point away from home is great but we will need to win our away games, if we lose our home games like we did against Pune City,” he said.

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