ISL: Pride at stake for Chennaiyin; bragging rights for Bengaluru

Both Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC find themselves in the opposite ends of the spectrum — a massive point difference of 26 — as Bengaluru sits on the top of the points table while Chennaiyin is struggling to avoid the wooden spoon.

Chennaiyin FC has just five points from 14 matches and would hope to bag three against Bengaluru FC on Saturday to restore some pride.   -  M. Vedhan

A match between Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC has always been billed as an explosive one. Last year, when the two teams faced each other in a top-of-the-table clash in Chennai in the Indian Super League, only four points separated the home side from its opponent.

However, come Saturday, both teams find themselves in the opposite ends of the spectrum — a massive point difference of 26 — as Bengaluru sits on the top of the points table while Chennaiyin is struggling to avoid the wooden spoon.

The match-up which raised the ante on all three occasions they met last season, will have no bearing on the outcome of the title when the players take the field at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Chennaiyin, winless in its last seven matches, has just five points in 14 matches. Bengaluru, on the other hand, is just a win away from qualifying for the playoffs for the second successive year.

Related: They almost killed Sunil Chhetri, says Cuadrat

There is, however, pride at stake for Chennaiyin boss John Gregory and the club's supporters. "A victory tomorrow (on Saturday) will give us some self-esteem. The fans might take it as compensation for the season (we have had). It's a huge game for us and the fans," said Gregory, on the eve of the match.

His counterpart Carles Cuadrat sympathised with the reigning champion's predicament. "For us, it's a surprise. The situation......but that's football. They have the same coach, players etc. There is no mathematical reason (for this). This happens in football. (I) Feel sorry for Chennai," said Cuadrat.

Related: It's been the worst three months of my life, says Gregory

For the third match running, Gregory is expected to not play his full quota of foreign players in his starting line up, keeping the upcoming AFC Cup in mind. New signing Christopher Herd is likely to get another look in at some stage during the match.

Striker Miku, who scored the winner the last time these two sides met in Bengaluru, will once again add a cutting edge to BFC's attack, after his substitute appearance in the 2-2 draw against Kerala Blasters on Wednesday.

The lowest-ever points tally after the league stages is 11 by NorthEast United FC last season.

On current form, Bengaluru could add further momentum to Chennaiyin's slide and take home the bragging rights.