The Highlanders hold a favourable head-to-head record against the Marina Machans.
Defending champions Chennaiyin FC have lost both their fixtures in this edition of the ISL, and will be aiming to notch their first win of the season, when they host NorthEast United at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai, on Thursday.
The Marina Machans are currently in ninth place at the table, meanwhile, the Highlanders are placed at fifth position.
John Gregory (Chennaiyin FC)
Gregory feels that Jeje will be back in form soon
The barren run is not something that coach John Gregory is used to. They’ve struggled for bits in the past, and the English coach remains confident that they can now turn the corner. The last time Chennaiyin had a three-match losing run, was in 2015.
“NorthEast have had a fantastic start to the season and we have to respect them. They beat ATK and almost beat Goa. They should have won that game. But I have to show belief in my players. They have the capability to win it for us,” said Gregory.
While Chennaiyin’s first match against Bengaluru FC proved to be a tightly knit affair that ended 1-0 in favour of the latter, they were overcome 3-1 by FC Goa at their home ground in the second game.
For Chennaiyin FC, striker Jeje Lalpekhlua will hope for better service from midfield after drawing blanks in the two games so far.
“Jeje has that capability. He just needs to stay relaxed and be focused. Once they get the first goal, everything else follows up. Similarly, a win is all we need to turn our season around,” Gregory said.
Eelco Schattorie (NorthEast United)
Schattorie believes that the biggest challenge will be to adapt to Chennai’s humidity
NorthEast United, on the other hand, are a revamped unit under the tutelage of Dutch tactician Eelco Schattorie. With former PSG forward Bartholomew Ogbeche leading the attack, the Highlanders will offer a threat to any defence in the league.
“We can compete with any ISL team but Chennai has more individual quality than us. They have a few weaknesses and hopefully, we can exploit that,” said the Dutch coach.
Schattorie saw his side go toe-to-toe with a dominant FC Goa and match up to their attacking football, clinching a 2-2 draw. Then they went on to defeat ATK in Kolkata. Schattorie is mindful of the individual quality Chennaiyin possesses, and the soaring temperature in Chennai is not lost on him either.
“It is always difficult (after a break). The biggest challenge is to adapt to the humidity in Chennai. It was really hot when we trained in the morning. Evening seems to be better,” said Schattorie.
Dhanpal Ganesh is still out injured. So in his absence, Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh will be expected to step up and shore up the midfield, allowing the likes of Raphael Augusto to venture forward in attack.
Goalkeeper TP Rehenesh has received an interim suspension from AIFF’s Disciplinary Committee, due violent misconduct with Gelson Viera, in his side’s previous encounter against ATK. He won’t be available tomorrow.
Chennaiyin FC: Karanjit, Inigo, Mailson, Eli, Jerry, Germanpreet, Thapa, Gregory, Raphael, Francisco, Jeje.
NorthEast United: Pawan, Reagan, Komorski, Grgic, Robert, Rowlin, Leudo, Redeem, Gallejo, Nikhil, Ogbeche.
Did You Know?
Jeje will be facing a side against whom he is yet to score a goal in the ISL. In the five matches he has played against the Highlanders, he has four shots attempted and out of which three are on target.
Among teams they have faced for more than a season, the Highlanders have lost the least number of times against Chennaiyin FC.
NorthEast has won more matches against Chennaiyin (4) than any other side.
The match will take place tomorrow at 7:30 PM at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. On television, the match will be live on Star Sports. Meanwhile, it will also be streamed on Hotstar and Jio TV.