Having endured miserable respective campaigns both teams are out of playoffs contention.
Kerala Blasters FC host Chennaiyin FC in what promises to be an entertaining South Indian derby at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Both teams come into this encounter on the back of impressive performances against Bengaluru and will be raring to get one over each other, given their historic rivalry.
Nelo Vingada (Kerala Blasters)
The Kerala Blasters, spoke at length about the challenge that Chennaiyin poses. “Against Chennai, we have to start well. It will be hard because they beat Bengaluru in the last game. We have to play our best. We have to show them that it is not easy to play in Kochi,” he said.
Asked about his preparations for the match, the veteran coach said, “It is another day. The next game is always the most important and also the most difficult. We need to make sure that our team’s performance levels are going up. We have had more time in training and now, the players know my concept better.”
Kerala will be without defender Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, who has reportedly been handed a suspension due to a tussle during the match against Bengaluru. “Today I learned that Lakic is suspended for two games, so we have to find a solution to replace him. The information I got is that he and one player of Bengaluru had a confrontation and he pushed him using his shoulder. He told me he pushed him with the shoulder because other players were provoking him,” Vingada informed.
However, the Blasters could be boosted by the return of Anas Edathodika, who has been out of action due to an injury he picked up during India’s AFC Asian Cup campaign. “Anas became injured vs Bahrain. He started working 10 days ago. He will completely recover, he played in training in the last week. He is a player with great experience, we will see,” Vingada said.
When asked about the prospect of CK Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary, who moved to Chennaiyin from Kerala during the January transfer window, coming back to face their former side, Vingada stated, “Chennaiyin are not just about Vineeth and Narzary. We have to respect them, and we have to show it is our home match.
John Gregory (Chennaiyin FC)
John Gregory spoke about what to expect from the encounter. The Englishman began by talking about the team’s main priorities going forward and said, “We have set our focus on the AFC Cup and the Hero Super Cup. We played with only four foreigners against the league leaders and beat them. It is good preparation for our AFC Cup campaign. It was a kind of a trial run that worked well against Bengaluru. We continue to be motivated, without a doubt. We want to take nine points from our remaining three Hero ISL matches. And hopefully, we will finish in a position better than where we are right now.”
Talking about the prospect of facing rivals Kerala, Gregory said, “We have a chance to catch up with Kerala. So definitely there is a lot to play for and look forward to. We will continue to work as hard as we can. The players will be playing for pride and their futures. It was seen clearly that they were highly motivated against Bengaluru.”
He also reminisced about his first visit to Kerala last year and the impact the home fans had. “We came here last year and went back with a point. Kerala had a chance then to qualify for the play-offs with a win. It was my first experience of seeing the Kerala support, and it was brilliant. It gave them a huge advantage,” he said.
CK Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary made the switch from Kerala to Chennai during the winter transfer window and Gregory has been pleased with how the duo has adjusted to the squad. “Our new boys Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary have fitted in and settled in very quickly at Chennaiyin.
CK scored in his first home game for us and set up a goal against Bengaluru. He is a goal scorer with great ability. He has settled in very quickly with us, as I said. He will be playing tomorrow night and will be determined to do well. We also have Mailson Alves back available after suspension. We are delighted to have him back. And all the boys are fit and raring to go tomorrow against Kerala Blasters,” he revealed.
The Blasters do not have any major injuries, however, Lalruatthara could be missing from the squad.
Mailson Alves is expected to make a substitute appearance. However, Marina Machans do not have any major injury concerns to deal with at the moment.
Kerala Blasters- Dheeraj (GK), Rakip, Jhingan, Pesic, Singh, Kizito, Doungel, Samad, Pekuson, Stojanovic, Poplatnik
Chennaiyin FC- Singh (GK), Renthlei, Herd, Sabia, Singh, Fernandes, Thapa, Nelson, Augusto, Vineeth, Jeje
Did You Know?
Kerala Blasters have not won the game since the league started after the international break. They drew two games and lost another.
Kerala Blasters and Chennaiyin FC have the joint lowest number of clean sheets in the league this season (2)
Chennaiyin recently acquired the services of CK Vineeth who joined the Marina Machans from Kerala Blasters
The match will kick-off at 7:30 PM, 14th February, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. It will be broadcasted by Star Sports, and streamed by Hotstar and Jio TV.