Materazzi: 'We need to be focussed'

"We need the fans to cheer for us even when we are going through a bad patch," said the Chennaiyin coach, Marco Materazzi, on the eve of the match against FC Pune City.

Chennaiyin FC's Bernard Mendy during a practice session.   -  ISL Media

Materazzi casts doubt on his ISL future

Chennaiyin FC manager Marco Materazzi admitted he was unhappy with the Indian Super League's (ISL) ‘unfair’ treatment towards him after he was handed a one-match suspension for allegedly getting into an altercation with Kerala Blasters’ forward Kervens Belfort after the match in Chennai.

“I’ve always been a straight-forward person. I can tell you the whole Belfort saga was made up. I only wanted to shake hands with the player, which I did in the tunnel and in the locker room. This story was all made up to irritate the Kerala fans, whom I want to congratulate, because if everyone were like Kerala fans, football in India will develop faster,” said Materazzi, speaking to the media on the eve of his side’s match against FC Pune City.

“Football is booming in India but when I’m subjected to injustice I get upset. It’s not like I don’t want to be here but I’m upset with the ISL,” said the former World Cup winner, adding fuel to speculations that he might leave at the end of the season.

'Play-off hopes still alive’

Chennaiyin, the defending champion, is winless in its last five matches but the coach refuses to give up the fight to secure a place in the play-offs.

“We will keep fighting. I’m sure FC Goa (placed at the bottom of the league table) is thinking of making the play-offs as well. Every team has a chance. We are maturing as a team and we have shown that we can battle with every team in the ISL. Look at our match against Kerala. They didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half. So we have the quality to make it to the play-offs,” said Materazzi.

“Fans can also contribute and come in large numbers to support the team. It’s easy to love the team when it is winning. We need the fans to cheer for us even when we are going through a bad patch,” added the Chennaiyin coach.

The host’s major problem in the season has been its leaky defence (14 goals conceded in nine matches) and the coach rallied for more focus from his players ahead of the Pune encounter.

“We need to be more careful. We have to be more focussed and stop conceding free-kicks because that has ultimately proved costly,” said the manager.

Habas: ‘Upcoming matches are very important’

Delhi Dynamos sits on top of the table with 17 points while FC Goa is at the bottom with 10 points, but with four matches still left to be played (Chennaiyin and Pune have five), no team is yet to secure a place in the play-off. Pune manager Antonio Habas, who has previously won the tournament with Atletico de Kolkata (ATK), said that the upcoming matches will be crucial in deciding the top four spots.

“At the moment, all teams are hoping to qualify and we could have tough matches. We expect Chennaiyin FC to play strong because this is the most important stage of the league,” said Habas.

Pune comes into the match on the back of two wins (2-1 against ATK, 1-0 against Mumbai City) and will move to second on the table if it beats Chennaiyin. The return of Bengaluru FC midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who scored the winner against Mumbai, has further strengthened the side which will be counting on its momentum to trounce Materazzi's stuttering champions.

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