ISL 2018: Champion Chennaiyin FC eyes its first win against Mumbai City FC

Defending champion Chennaiyin FC will look to claim its first win of the 2018 Indian Super League season when it hosts Mumbai City FC on Saturday.

Chennaiyin FC players attend a training session on the eve of their clash Indian Super League clash against Mumbai City FC.

Chennaiyin FC will be eyeing its first win of the season when it hosts Mumbai City FC in its fifth match of the Indian Super League here on Saturday.

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The defending champion comes into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw against Delhi Dynamos, the only point it has picked up this time around. While the had side conceded 19 goals on its way to the title last season, it has conceded ten goals in its first five games this campaign — seven of which were let in in its two home games.

Sabir Pasha, assistant coach of Chennaiyin FC, defended his team at the pre-match press conference here on Friday, saying “though we are missing chances, performance-wise, we are doing really well. We are not short in creating chances. It is [due to] the lack of concentration [that] we are not able to score.”

Pasha wasn’t worried about the poor run this season and defended his side by comparing the team’s run under Marco Materazzi in the second season, where the side qualified for the play-offs even though it was at the bottom of table at one stage. “Many lost hope [then]. You cannot write off anything. We are confident of coming back,” he said.

Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory will be looking to improve his side’s defending to ensure its title defence doesn’t end in the first few games of the season.

Dhanpal Ganesh, who has been out with an injury, was expected to be back after five games and Gregory will be hoping that the pre-season assessment stands correct.

The team’s attack has also failed to fire this season. While Jeje Lalpekhlua started the first two games, he has been called on from the bench for the other three with Carlos Salom, who scored against ATK in the last game, replacing the Indian striker.

Thoi Singh, Isaac Vanmalsawma and Anirudh Thapa’s performances have been the rare bright sparks for the team till date.

— Up and down season —

Mumbai City FC, on the other hand, has endured a lukewarm start to the season, with the team currently sixth in the table after picking up seven points from five games.

The 5-0 drubbing at the hands of FC Goa was the heaviest loss for any team this season, but it did well to bounce back with a 2-0 win against Delhi Dynamos.

Goalkeeper Ravi Kumar, who deputised for the injured Amrinder Singh, pulled off a few good saves to keep a clean sheet against Delhi Dynamos but he could return to the bench against Chennaiyin with Amrinder back to full fitness. Arnold Issoko and Moudou Sougou, who scored against Dynamos, are beginning to find form and will be looking to exploit Chennaiyin’s shaky defence.

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Coach Jorge Costa, who is expecting a difficult game against Chennaiyin FC, said, “They haven't started the league too well but they have very good players and they have a very good coach, so we must respect them a lot and we will try to do our best tomorrow to go back home with three points.”

“At the moment in the league, a lot of clubs are separated by only one or two points. We need to try to separate ourselves with a win,” he added.

Mumbai has had a mixed season so far, with the team failing to stitch two back-to-back wins and Costa will be hoping for some consistency from his team — starting with Saturday’s clash.