The hosts will look to do the double over the league leaders.
Second-placed Chennaiyin FC will hope to cut the lead of table-toppers Bengaluru FC to just a point when they host the league debutants in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday. Having beaten the Blues in the reverse fixture earlier this season, they would look to complete a double over the Sunil Chhetri-led side.
The 2015 ISL champions have the least number of defeats so far in this season (3) and speaking to the media during the pre-match presser was their head coach, John Gregory.
Chennaiyin have had a variety of different scorers along with Jeje Lalpekhlua who has bagged seven goals. Elaborating on this, the Englishman said, “Jeje scoring that many goals is a testament to his goal-scoring abilities. But yes, everyone has chipped in with goals. Mailson (Alves) scored his first-ever goal in the ISL. So, it’s great that everyone has taken the responsibility of trying to score. If we expect Jeje to score in every game, that would be a big burden on his shoulders. So, I am delighted that everyone is contributing this season.”
Many coaches have shared their befuddlement at the hectic schedule they have had to endure throughout the season. Gregory however, had no complaints with the fixture list. “We have never complained about it (the schedule),” he stated. “We’ve just got on with it. Everyone else has the same problem in various parts of the season. There is nothing you can do about it. We tend not to give any extra thought. It’s there, that’s our programme – we roll up our sleeves, get on with it and win our matches.”
The 63-year-old also refused to agree that their win over Bengaluru earlier in the season gave them an advantage going into Tuesday’s tie. “That is a misconception,” Gregory remarked. “We play every three or four days. If there is a bad day, we are back on the pitch after three-four days and erase the negative things of the defeat. In a couple of days, we are back on the training pitch and then we are on the pitch where we have to be.”
He further continued, “So, when the games come thick and fast, it is never a problem for me. My players have literally been playing every three or four days and have been getting positive results. I am sure they can’t wait to get back on the pitch against Bengaluru and am also sure the previous match has no detrimental effect for them.”
Before signing off, he shared some positive news regarding injuries. “We have a good squad and I have got choices to make tomorrow night for the match. So, we are going into this crucial period with a full-strength squad. We are all very comfortable.”
Addressing the media at the pre-match press conference was their head coach Albert Roca. When asked whether the loss in the home fixture against Chennaiyin would affect their mentality, the Spaniard replied, “I don’t think so. The match against Chennaiyin FC was not a disaster. There were some good performances. They are a tough team, and they haven’t played for a while. So, we have to be clear in our approach and play to our strengths to get a good result.”
The 55-year-old was also bemused at the hectic schedule his team was going through. “We played two days ago in Kolkata, and now we have travelled here to Chennai,” Roca stated. “So, it is probably not the best way to prepare. And not just for my team – all teams should have a minimum of four days to prepare. But, now we have to accept it now and give our best.”
The Blues have heavily relied on Miku and Sunil Chhetri to get the goals (they have bagged 18 out of their team’s 25), and regarding this he said, “For me, it does not matter who scores. But I like it when the strikers score, because it means they are doing their job. But it makes things complicated when you always demand goals from strikers. So, it is important for the team-mates to contribute, and give back-up so that the team functions as a whole.”
Finally, Roca had some bad news regarding injuries. “Braulio (Nobrega) is out for the rest of the season, which is a shame,” he revealed. However, he added, “Harmanjot Khabra returns from his suspension.”