The Marina Machans have put together an impressive squad, similar to that of last season.

As the 2018-2019 season of the Indian Super League edges ever closer, the excitement amongst the fans all over the country grows. Champions, Chennaiyin FC, will come into the season looking to do what no side has done so far in the short history of the ISL, ie retain their title. Along with ATK, Chennaiyin are the most successful club in the history of the league, with two championships to their name.

However, the team from the south will have their work cut out for them if they are to retain their title, as they are surrounded by squads that have been vastly strengthened in the off-season.

Here are five things that the reigning champions have to do to retain their crown:

5. Avoid a repeat of 2016

Following their dramatic victory over FC Goa in the final of ISL 2015, Chennaiyin FC went into their third season with a majority of their core squad still intact. However, a failure to strengthen cost the side, as they fell to seventh place in the table after conceding 25 goals in 14 league games.

The team will have to ensure that they do not fall into the same trap again, if they are to retain the title.

4. Team chemistry similar to last season

Following his side’s victory last season, John Gregory stated that his team did not have the best players, but they did have the best group, where each individual played their part in the team’s success on and off the pitch.

“Real genuine teammates” was the term a proud Gregory used to describe his boys. This season, after a lot of changes to the squad, it is essential that they retain that same sense of togetherness that held them in such good stead last campaign.

3. Find appropriate roles for the new signings

The Chennaiyin FC squad has seen a large number of new faces walk through the gates of the Marina Arena for the 2018-2019 term, along with a lot of familiar faces walking out.

Therefore, it is essential that Gregory assigns his new recruits with appropriate roles prior to the side’s first game in the league, ensuring that his squad is settled going into the new canpaign.

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2. Retaining the heart of their defense

Mailson Alves and Inigo Calderon were retained by the Marina Machans for the new season of the ISL, after the pair were impressive in Chennaiyin’s title run. With current captain Henrique Sereno’s future up in the air, the manager will look to his defensive stalwarts to be the leaders of a very young side.

If Alves and Calderon prove to be as effective as they were last season, Chennaiyin will look a very daunting prospect going into the new campaign.

1. Balancing the league and the AFC Cup

As a relatively young club, Chennaiyn will receive their first taste of football outside the constraints of the ISL. The team will take part in the 2019 AFC Cup entering the competition in the second preliminary round of the South Asia zone. CFC will have to learn quickly to deal with the strains of balancing participation in two competitions simultaneously.

Gregory has outlined his club’s aims for the season, saying that he expects his side to be challenging to be the first team to retain the ISL title. Only time will tell if the 64-year-old can fulfil his ambitions this term.