Chennaiyin have a mountain to climb if they harbour any hopes of making it to the play-offs. With only three more matches to go, the Marco Materazzi-coached outfit lie in a precarious sixth position with 13 points, off three points from the play-off spots.
On the eve of their game here in Chennai, Delhi Dynamos coach-cum-marquee player Roberto Carlos was optimistic of his side’s chances. Sitting pretty at joint-second with 18 points, with a game in hand, the Brazilian credited the team’s good run to the entire squad. “The 18 points is because of the whole group’s efforts. Not only the players, but the coaches and support staff played a huge role in this season. We have a great team and are a close-knit family. This is the most important aspect for a team’s success.”
The incentive to finish top-two in the ISL is the advantage of playing the second leg at home. The Brazilian, however, doesn’t feel it to be a major advantage. “This is a very tight league, so I’m not really worried about finishing first, second or third… Our aim is to be in the play-offs and we’ll see from there on,” he said.
He added that the team that finishes first in the league doesn’t necessarily end up as champion, as was the case with Chennaiyin in last year’s ISL.
Dynamos have already beaten Chennaiyin in their first home fixture on October 8 and Carlos is aware of their situation. “The pressure is on Chennaiyin as they need to win at home. Big pressure! We respect the team but have our strategies in place by studying their previous matches. They also don’t have a couple of players due to suspension as well.”
The Brazilian added his side “will play to win” irrespective of their comfortable position in the league.
Carlos also wants to change the perception of great players not being great managers. “We are trying to change this perception. As a coach, I have studied and followed great managers like Jose Mourinho, Vicente Del Bosque, Pep Guardiola and so on. So hopefully I can achieve similar heights.”
He and his Chennaiyin counterpart have won World Cups for their respective countries. Carlos won the World Cup in 2002 with Brazil, which had a galaxy of stars that included himself, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Luis Ronaldo, Cafu and Rivaldo among others. Marco Materazzi was in the victorious Italian team of 2006.
The Italian is only too aware of Delhi Dynamos’ impeccable defensive record this season. “They are a very good team and have conceded very few goals so it will not be an easy game tomorrow,” he said.
The coach confirmed that Jayesh is not fully fit and will not feature tomorrow. He added that Elano didn’t play against Kerala Blasters in the previous match as he suffered a knock during the ATK game in Kolkata.
As the tournament enters the business end of the season, Chennaiyin can only rely on mathematics to enter the play-offs. Materazzi insisted that “every game is now a final for us”, the first of which is tomorrow against a very compact side in Delhi Dynamos who aren’t in any desperation for three points.
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