Three points will be crucial for both teams on Thursday evening.
It will be a battle between neighbours Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Thursday. Both teams currently occupy the bottom rung of the ISL standings and would fast require results in their favour to stand an outside chance of making it to the playoffs.
Despite both teams promising a lot, it has barely been a season either team would’ve desired, with results and performances not to the level expected. Hence, a high premium would be placed on the game on Thursday.
Chennaiyin FC endured a horrendous start to the season, going four games without a goal and losing to rivals Bengaluru 3-0. They have won only one out of their seven games so far this campaign and are second from bottom. Confidence is at an all-time low for the Marina Machans, but they have had some moments where they have shown capability.
The team will be looking to turn a new corner with new coach Owen Coyle in-charge and have a man in-form in Nerijus Valskis, who has scored four goals in his last three games. With the postponement of the previous game in Guwahati, the new coach would’ve had more time to know his players and get his tactics and ideas across.
A win against Kerala on Thursday won’t set the world alight, but will provide some much-needed encouragement moving ahead. Three points will take them level with Odisha and might get things kicking in the right direction.
Kerala Blasters are in a similar situation to Chennaiyin FC in terms of results, but can count themselves unlucky with injuries to key players like Bartholomew Ogbeche and Jairo Rodrigues. It is a continuing mess which has left head coach Eelco Schattorie at his wit’s end.
They haven’t been in the best form on the road this season, losing twice and drawing one of their three away games so far. A win against their close neighbours will certainly change that narrative and will give the Dutchman and his team a fighting chance of making the playoffs.
The injuries to key players have meant that the young crop has had to step in to shoulder the responsibility, which they have handled admirably so far. Players like Sahal Samad, Mohammad Rakip, Jeakson Singh and Prashanth Karuthadathkuni among others, have given the Blasters great options to develop for the future. Striker Raphael Messi Bouli has also stepped up well, with four goals in his last three games.
Coyle has a lot of problems to solve at Chennaiyin FC, but injury concerns aren’t one among them. The club continue to remain cryptic regarding Jeje Lalpekhlua’s return to full fitness and Dhanpal Ganesh hasn’t featured for the past two games. But, apart from that, Coyle will have all his other players available for the game.
Kerala Blasters are a team currently struck down with injuries. They had lost centre-back Rodrigues earlier in the campaign and now Ogbeche is sidelined for a fortnight with an injury. As a result, Schattorie has been left to confide in his young players, but they have given him reason to be optimistic for the future with decent performances.
Head To Head
Both teams have faced each other ten times in the ISL with Chennaiyin winning thrice and Kerala twice. There have been five draws in this fixture’s history.
Man To Watch
Nerijus Valskis (Chennaiyin FC)
The 32-year-old Lithuanian has been Chennaiyin’s lifeline and has found a purple patch of sorts, scoring four in his last three games. It will give him confidence and he will look to continue his good run against the Blasters. He has been getting into good positions in front of goal, but with goals under his belt, he seems to be playing with an air of calm.
Raphael Messi Bouli (Kerala Blasters)
Messi Bouli has proven to be the ideal replacement for Ogbeche and like Valskis, has found form in front of goal for the Men in Yellow, scoring four times in the last three matches. While results have not gone his team’s way, he has been a focal point of their attack and has proven his capability of scoring and getting into dangerous areas behind the opposition’s defence. Kerala will require him to be at his best against Chennaiyin and will look to work around his finishing ability.
Kaith, Vanspaul, Sabia, Goian (C), Tondonba, Saighani, Thoi, Thapa, Chhangte, Crivellaro, Valskis.
Rehenesh, Rakip, Drobarov, Gaikwad, Carneiro, Jeakson, Arques, Seityasen, Cidoncha, Narzary, Messi Bouli
Did You Know?
- Both teams have played each other 10 times in the ISL (12 overall) with Kerala Blasters winning twice and Chennaiyin FC winning thrice with the rest of the five matches turning into draws.
- The Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters FC strikers Nerijus Valskis and Raphael Messi Bouli have both scored four goals in their last three games respectively.
- Kerala Blasters are three goals away from becoming the seventh ISL team to score 100 goals.
The game will be telecast live on Star Sports 2 and Stars Sports 2 HD from 7:30 PM IST. The live stream will be on Hotstar and Jio TV.