The southerners are the lone Indian club to enter the continent’s top competition.
Chennai City FC begin their continental campaign in the First Preliminary Round playoff of the AFC Champions League against Bahrain champions Al Riffa at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. The winners of this game will play against Shahyr Khodro FC of Iran in the second round. Chennai City faced a huge blow as their star striker and talisman Pedro Manzi decided to leave the Coimbatore outfit for greener pastures in Japan. Al Riffa will also miss half a dozen players who are on national duty with the national Olympic team.
Both the head coaches met the media on the eve of the fixture.
Akbar Nawas (Chennai City)
The Singaporean gave an insight into the big game and said, “It’ll be a tough game for sure. The team from Bahrain, Middle East are never easy teams to play against, but we will go out there and do our best, compete and try to win the game. It is what it is in football. No matter who the opponent is, we’ll try to win the game. We will go out there and will do our best.”
When quizzed about how the absence of Pedro Manzi will affect the team he quoted, “I’d be lying if I said It’ll not affect us. A player of Pedro’s calibre and at this moment for a team like us and that’s why you buy foreigners. But, now it’ll open the door for a young striker like Suhail who scored a goal against Gokulam. It is a chance for him to showcase his talent and who knows if he does well it will draw the attention of the national team coach.”
Akbar Nawas spoke about the physical disadvantage and went on to say, “To be honest, they do have a physical advantage over us. But, let’s see, we might defeat them tactically. The main focus is to play out there as a team and express ourselves and not to worry about the result.”
Ali Ashoor (Al Riffa SC)
Ali Ashoor started the press meet by saying, “Our preparation started the day we knew we were going to play Chennai City FC. We have analyzed our opponents. We know their strengths, their weaknesses and from the last week we started to focus on the match. But, I would like to inform you that many of our players are missing and they are with the Olympic team in Thailand currently.”
Al Riffa’s head coach gave insights about the style of play and said, “We scored 39 goals in the 18 games last campaign. We are a team that likes to attack and keep the possession. But, do not get us wrong, we also have other traits. We can counter-attack and we can score goals from set-pieces too.”
Their Excellencies’ boss also gave his thoughts about the average age of the two squads and said, “I don’t think the difference (of age) will matter much because although, our team is older than Chennai, none of my players have the experience of playing in the AFC Champions League.”
Chennai City FC
Apart frpm their departed talisman Manzi, the southerners have a fully fit squad to pick from.
The visitors are mising as many as six of their players who are away on duty with the national Olympic team.
Chennai City FC: Santana; Kumar, Akhand, Eslava, Mariyadasan; Ram, Charles, Pasha, Katsumi; Fito, Balakrishnan
Al Riffa SC: Sayed; Mahdi, Faisal, Redha, Hamad; Gege, Komail Abdulla; Saleh, Ali, Mahdi
The Chennai City-Al Riffa match will kickoff at 6 pm IST on Tuesday and the match will be streamed on 1 Play Sports’ Facebook page.