The Marina Machans will look to become the first team to defend their crown.

After a succesful Indian Super League  (ISL) )campaign last season, Chennaiyin FC look all geared up for the next campaign. The southerners have made some interesting additions to the squad as well as in the managerial staff and look all set to defend their title in the coming season. The Marina Machans’ head coach John Gregory has revealed that his side plans on becoming the first team to successfully defend the title in the fifth term of the ISL, and the southerners’ pre-season results look as satisfying as it can get for his side. 

In the following article, we discuss about Chennaiyin FC and their chances of retaining the crown in the forthcoming season.

Last Season’s Performance: Champions

Chennaiyin FC come into the season of the ISL on the back of an excellent 2017-2018 campaign where they defeated Bengaluru FC in the final. The team were not overly reliant on a single star to rack up the goals, with several members of the squad regularly finding themselves on the score-sheet. Following the departure of a stalwart in Marco Materazzi, it was assumed that the side from the south would go through a period of transition under new manager, John Gregory.

However, the Englishman and Chennaiyin proved to be a match made in heaven, as the side lifted their second ISL title.


Chennaiyin FC set off to Malaysia for a four-week long training camp which included four pre-season friendlies. The first of these matches was played against the Malaysia U-19s and ended goalless. The Marina Machans followed it up with a 1-1 draw against the Malaysian -Indian Football Association and a game against Felda United which saw a lot of first teamers rested,  which also ended 1-1. In their final pre-season friendly, the side lost out to Terengganu FC. Chennaiyin will conclude their preparations in Goa with two games scheduled against Indian Arrows.

The Coach

John Gregory has been retained as the head coach of Chennaiyin FC for the upcoming season

John Gregory took to the ISL like a duck to water, winning the title in his first season with the club. The Englishman is now looking to bcome the first manager to retain the crown. Prior to his first season as head of the Chennai outfit, Gregory expressed his desire to strengthen the side defensively, a task that he looks to do extending to this season.

 It remains to be seen if the ISL’s “Coach of the Year” can replicate his magic in his second season.

Transfer Dealings


The Chennai outfit underwent a massive squad overhaul which saw the departure of several bit-part players to make room for Gregory to further mould the squad according to his philosophy. Andrea Orlandi was recruited from Serie C side Novara and Carlos Salom was signed on loan from Bangkok United to add to the foreign contingent at the Marina Arena. Orlandi was brought in for his incredible versatility in midfield.

Nikhil Bernard, Ngasepam Tondonba Singh, Issac Vanmalasawma, Sanjiban Ghosh, Renthlei, Zohmingliana Ralte and Prosenjit Chakraborty will also be sporting deep blue in the upcoming season. 

The Machans have also secured the services of Indian Arrows starlets Deepak Tangri, Rahim Ali and Abhijeet Sarkar who will join the side next year.


Gregory got rid of the players that he felt did not contribute to the squad as much as they could, which saw the Marina Machans sanction no less than 11 departures following the title-winning season. This was done in an attempt to allow the squad to evolve and not to stagnate.

The list of departures includes, Jamie Galivan, Rene Mihelic, Bikramjit Singh, Pawan Kumar, Keenan Almeida, Dhanachandra Singh, Cardozo, Sanjay Balmuchu, Shahinlal Meloly, Jude Nworuh.


Goalkeepers:  Karanjit SinghSanjiban Ghosh, Nikhil Bernard

Defenders:  Mailson Alves (Brazil), Eli Sabia (Brazil), Inigo Calderon (Spain), Jerry Lalrinzuala, Tondonba Singh, Laldinliana Renthlei, Zohmingliana Ralte, Hendry Antonay

Midfielders:  Raphael Augusto (Brazil), Gregory Nelson (The Netherlands), Andrea Orlandi (Italy), Francisco Fernandes, Thoi SinghAnirudh ThapaGermanpreet Singh, Sinivasan Pandiyan, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Bedashwor Singh, Zonunmawia

Forwards:  Jeje LalpekhluaMohammed Rafi, Carlos Antonio Salom (Palestine)

Formation & Tactics

John Gregory has prioritized strengthening his defence over his attack, while still retaining the attacking potency his side possessed last season. It is expected that he will retain the same 4-4-1-1 formation that served him so well last campaign. Mailson Alves will be partnered by Eli Sabia in the heart of the back four and Inigo Calderon and Jerry Lalrinzuala will reprise their roles as full-backs. 

Chennaiyin FC’s predicted lineup in ISL Season 5

Andrea Orlandi will slot into any one of the midfield roles and will be joined by one of last season’s standout performers, Dhanpal Ganesh. Anirudh Thapa, who has been a revelation for his country in the SAFF Cup should find himself in Gregory’s plans and will take one of the midfield slots. The last midfield spot will be occupied by Gregory Nelson, just as it was last season.

Raphael Augusto will play off Jej Lalpekhlua up top in a false #9 position, allowing for the 27-year-old to find himself in goalscoring positions.

Gregory has spoken about Orlandi’s eye for a pass and impeccable positioning sense that will add a layer of depth to the Chennaiyin attack. The Italian will be complemented by Thapa’s tenacity on the pitch, making the southerners a daunting prospect for any opposition.



In retrospect to his first season in-charge of the club, Gregory stated that his side did not have the best individual players, but they did have the best squad in which each player’s abilities and qualities complemented the others. He labelled his side as “real true teammates”. This is perhaps Chennai’s greatest asset.

While the quality of each of the players is undeniable, a feeling of goodwill amongst the members of the squad will also hold them in good stead for the upcoming season.  Another strength that the side possess is their defence that has remained relatively unchanged since last term. Alves, Calderon, Sabia and Jerry are expected to act as a well-oiled unit and are difficult to break down for any opposition.


The departure of 11 squad members is sure to affect the squad’s unity and will be a challenge that Gregory has to overcome for the upcoming season. Star striker Lalpekhlua is lethal in front of goal, but tends to go missing in games, especially against defenders with a significant physical advantage over him. The failure of the club to sign a striker to partner him up top could come back to bite the Marina Machans.


Chennaiyin FC’s first phase ISL fixtures for 2018-19 season

Players To Watch

Jeje Lalpekhlua

The 27-year-old is the ISL’s leading Indian goalscorer and has proved his class time and time again for his club. He scored nine goals and provided two assists in 20 appearances for the South Indian side in the 2017-2018 season and will look to continue his prolific goalscoring form in the upcoming campaign.

Anirudh Thapa

The 20-year-old starred for his country at the SAFF Cup in Bangladesh. He has proven his tenacity and class and was even handed the captain’s armband for his country in the match against the Maldives in the group stage. The midfielder has the potential to light up the ISL with his determined and classy displays.

Andrea Orlandi

The Italian midfielder was brought in to add a level of complexity to the Chennaiyin midfiled. With the versatility that is required to slot into any of the midfield roles, Orlandi will be a mystery for opposition sides, thus making him a very valuable asset for the Marina Machans.


You can book tickets for Chennaiyin FC’s ISL campaign at BookMyShow.

What To Expect

Chennaiyin will have their work cut out for them if they are to retain title, thus becoming the first team to do so in the short history of the ISL. However, Gregory is not one to rest on his laurels and will push his side to improve on what was a near perfect last term. Thus, we can expect the team to be battling for top spot once again.