Three points are a must for either side in playoffs quest.
Bengaluru FC face bitter rivals Chennaiyin FC in a potential winner-takes-all clash at the Fatorda Stadium in the Indian Super League. The rivalry has an added edge now, as both teams are in the mix for a playoffs spot and a win is a must for either to keep themselves in contention.
It was Bengaluru who handed Chennaiyin their first defeat of the season back in early December, with a close 1-0 win. Similar to the situation on that day, the two teams are once again separated by two points and a win would take either within touching distance of the playoffs.
By their standards, it can be said that Bengaluru FC are having a rather mediocre season. They have blown hot and cold throughout the campaign and have been inconsistent to say the least.
The Blues bid adieu to long-term coach Carles Cuadrat early last month. They notched their first win in the new era in their last game, after a run of eight winless games.
With the win, Bengaluru will feel buoyant going into this game, knowing that there is a chance of bettering their playoffs hopes. There is also the added possibility of putting their bitter rivals out of contention for good this season. So, the three-pronged advantage could prove to be the inspiration that the 2018-19 ISL champions require before the big game.
The Marina Machans are running out of reasons for their performances in front of goal. It is rather surprising to say that the Achilles’ Heel of the team with the second-highest number of goals in ISL history has been their goalscoring.
Chennaiyin FC have created the most number of clear-cut chances in the league this season, but somehow find themselves as the team with the least number of goals in the league this season. The saying of ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ perhaps translates very literally in the case of the two-time ISL champions’ goalscoring woes.
Chennaiyin still have a mathematical chance of making it to the playoffs, but desperately need their strikeforce to turn up and get more balls bulging the back of the net. It has come to a situation where the Marina Machans simply have to win almost all of their remaining games.
Bengaluru FC faced a huge blow as their centre-back Juanan has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a leg injury. But, they will have Erik Paartalu back after serving a one-match suspension, while Rahul Bheke will miss out having received his fourth yellow card of the season in the previous game and Leon Augustine is also expected to be out for a period of 2-3 weeks.
Chennaiyin FC are yet to have Anirudh Thapa back in the squad after the midfielder missed the third game in a row for them. His absence has been a blow to the Marina Machans’ hopes. But, expectations are high for a much-awaited start for January signing Manuel Lanzarote. The former ATK and FC Goa midfielder could be expected to feature against Bengaluru FC. The Marina Machans will also have Enes Sipovic back from suspension.
Both these teams have faced each other eight times, with Bengaluru FC slightly edging their rivals with four wins to Chennaiyin’s three. The only draw came last season in a 0-0 stalemate at the Marina Arena.
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet (GK), Khabra, Chaudhari, Gonzalez, Ajith, Augustine, Paartalu, Wangjam, Udanta, Chhetri (C), Silva.
Chennaiyin FC: Kaith (GK), Reagan, Sabia, Sipovic, Lalrinzuala, Vanspaul, Memo, Ali, Chhangte, Lanzarote, Isma.
Man to Watch
Cleiton Silva (Bengaluru FC)
Cleiton Silva has proved to be an effective player for Bengaluru this season. The Brazilian has contributed the most goals for the Blues and is their joint-top scorer (with Chhetri) wiith five goals. Playing on the right, he combines well with Udanta Singh and could prove to be a challenge for Chennaiyin’s left-back Jerry Lalrinzuala.
His clinical finishing combined with work-rate could prove to be useful for the Blues and he will be feeling confident of breaching the Chennaiyin backline.
Manuel Lanzarote (Chennaiyin FC)
Manuel Lanzarote comes in at a crucial period for Chennaiyin, where he is expected to deliver right from the start. The Marina Machans are staring at a do-or-die battle for their playoffs hopes and the Spaniard has been brought in with the intention of matching the qualities of Chennaiyin skipper Rafael Crivellaro.
While his debut was long overdue, Lanzarote would be relishing the challenge of lacing up against Chennaiyin’s better rivals for his opening bow. The Spaniard possesses rich ISL experience and knows what it takes. His experience and quality will add a lot more to Chennaiyin’s attacking fortunes. How he inspires them to somehow find the back of the net remains to be seen.
Did You Know?
- Sunil Chhetri is four goals away from matching Ferran Corominas’ all-time tally of 48 goals – the highest in ISL history. He also holds the record for most shots on target (119).
- Chennaiyin FC have scored the least number of goals this season (11).
- Chennaiyin FC are tied for the most number of losses in ISL history (45 – with NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters).
The match between Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC will be telecast live on Star Sports 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 2 SD & HD (English), Star Sports Hindi 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 3 and several other regional languages. Live streaming of the match will be available on Hotstar and Jio TV.