Both teams need a win to keep their playoffs hopes alive…
Chennaiyin welcome NorthEast United to Marina Arena on Saturday night as they hope to keep their hopes of reaching the playoff stages alive.
The Marina Machans have been inconsistent so far, with the manager struggling to find the right balance in the team thanks to injuries to key players. Despite the team being adept both at defending and attacking, wins have been hard to come by as they sit seventh, eight points behind leaders Mumbai City. Unsurprisingly, they have drawn the most number of games in the division; they need to convert the draws into wins as the league stage edges towards culmination.
Despite their position in the table, they can still manage to reach the playoff stages as they remain just a single point adrift of fourth-placed Pune City. However, they will need other results to go their way as Kerala Blasters and their opponents on Saturday sit above them despite playing one game less.
As for the Highlanders, they managed to keep themselves in the race for playoff berths with a narrow win against the Stallions on Tuesday. However, they have been as inconsistent as the Blues as Tuesday’s win at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium was only their first in seven games. With manager Nelo Vingada promising to fight for a win at all costs, they will look to upset the defending champions on their own turf.
Marco Materazzi revealed that attacking players Maurizio Peluso and Jeje Lalpekhlua would be on the sidelines at least until the end of the league stages. Accordingly, he will be forced to field Jayesh Rane, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, or Baljit Sahni. Jerry Lalrinzuala may return to the starting line-up after yet another poor showing from marquee player John Arne Riise, with Bernard Mendy assuming his centre-back duty again.
As for United, Rowllin Borges is suspended after receiving his fourth yellow card of the season in the second half against Pune. Gustavo Lazzaretti is recovering well, but the Chennaiyin game comes too early for the Brazilian defender. Nirmal Chettri needs late fitness tests though he will most likely be on the sidelines.
Head to Head
Despite easily being the most consistent team in the ISL, Chennaiyin have largely struggled against their opponents on Saturday as they have lost thrice against them. They only recently claimed their first victory over United when they vanquished them 1-0 at Guwahati earlier in the season. With United averaging 1.8 goals per game against Chennaiyin – who have averaged a measly 0.8 – Chennaiyin’s defense ought to be at their impeccable best.
Man to Watch
Raphael Augusto-Chennaiyin FC: Although every Chennaiyin player has seen bad days, Raphael Augusto has remained consistent as he even finds himself ranked amongst ISL’s best players of the season. Despite being assigned a free role as of late, he is yet to score his first goal of the season.
Emiliano Alfaro-NorthEast United: Despite missing one game through suspension, Emiliano Alfaro tops the ISL goalscoring charts having scored five goals so far. However, with Iain Hume and compatriot Diego Forlan also sharing the top spot, he will hope to add to his tally against Chennaiyin’s somewhat shaky defense.
Chennaiyin: Karanjit; Wadoo, Eli Sabia, Mendy, Jerry; Mundampara, Blasi, Mulder; Augusto, Rane, Succi.
NorthEast United: NorthEast United: Subrata, Shouvik, Zokora, Alves, Salam Ranjan, Romaric, Narzary, Seityasen, Valez, Aneff, Alfaro
The match will be telecast live on Star Sports 2, Star Sports HD2, Star Sports 1, Star Sports HD1, Star Gold, Star Gold HD, Jalsha Movies, Jalsha Movies HD, and Hotstar.
You can also follow Khel Now’s live text commentary of the game, with our ISL correspondent Praveen R. Paramasivam reporting things as they happen from Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Photo © ISL Media
Preview by Khel Now Correspondent from Chennai Praveen R. Paramasivam