Chennaiyin FC edged past the Red Miners in the reverse fixture.

Chennaiyin FC will fight for pride when they face off against the high-flyers Jamshedpur FC at Tilak Maidan in Vasco. The two-time champions find themselves out of the top-four race and have also parted ways with Montenegrin head coach Bozidar Bandovic. The club has handed the reigns to assistant coach Sabir Pasha, who won a solitary point on his debut on the hot seat.

Jamshedpur FC on the other hand are on the verge of their maiden playoffs appearance and a win against the Marina Machans could seal a playoff berth for them. The Men of Steel come into the game on the back of an inspiring win against the defending champions, Mumbai City FC.

Ahead of the match, coaches Sabir Pasha and Owen Coyle addressed the media and shared their opinions on the game.

Chennaiyin FC coach Sabir Pasha

Adapting to new formation

Sabir Pasha: It depends on the quality of the players. There was a point to what Bosko (Bandovic) played, as he looked to defend more. After a point, you have to move up and not sit back. In this formation, the players feel better and we are playing to the strengths of our team.

Importance of finishing on a high note

Sabir Pasha: The players are professionals. They don’t want to go into the match just like that. They want to win every match, the hunger is there. Players were not in their comfort zone and I have tried to do that.

Experience on sidelines

Sabir Pasha: It’s always a big responsibility when it comes to managing the players. I try to keep all of them happy, but it is difficult. Most importantly, they are confident and the rest will follow.

Performance of Indians

Sabir Pasha: We started ISL so that our boys get better. Yes, we lack and we accept that. Indians have to improve with leaps and bounds, but they are learning faster. If you ask them to play as foreigners do, that would be a big task for them. They are improving and learning from the players who come from outside.

On putting players in comfort zone

Sabir Pasha: He (Bozidar Bandovic) was a good coach. He needed more time according to me, which he didn’t have. He didn’t want to change anything because he had produced results with a particular formation. He’s not done a bad job, but the only thing he lacked was to know where each player played best. If Ninthoi has to do 70% attack and 30% defence, he is doing that.

Anirudh Thapa’s injury & performance thereafter

Sabir Pasha: Injuries will happen to every player in ISL. But, they have to carry forward. In that way, Thapa is a strong lad and a leader. He is helping the team however he can. He might have some difficulties here and there, but he is carrying forward and providing positive energy to the team.

Nerijus Valskis

Chennaiyin FC Striker Nerijus Valskis, who made the switch from Jamshedpur earlier this January, also attended the press conference. Valskis has scored only one goal for the Marina Machans this season and thrice in ISL 2021-22. Here’s what he said:

Change in team’s performance

Nerijus Valskis: We can see the change in the formation and players are happier. Sometimes, you have to see the players you have and not what you want to play. But, generally, we are feeling much better and hopefully, we can get more points in the last three games.

Too much defending in previous formation

Nerijus Valskis: We felt that we were defending too much in the previous formation. I didn’t feel like a striker, I felt like a midfielder. This is why I didn’t have many chances in the first few games.

On contract situation

Nerijus Valskis: Not yet, we haven’t spoken. I have a contract till the end of the season and I will do my job. I have told them before that I will be happy to stay here if they offer me a contract. Don’t want to go anywhere else as I feel comfortable.

Jamshedpur FC coach Owen Coyle

Approach in next five decisive matches

Owen Coyle: We will approach the game the same as we have other games, try to win them. Our biggest game in the season is the next game. It’s as simple as that. In football, if you are going to look far ahead, you’re going to get punched in the nose. We have to focus and concentrate on each and every game.

We have to be ready for the challenges against Chennaiyin FC. They have some wonderful players. We are very respectful of the qualities they have, but if we are at our best we can win games. We are looking to attain as many points as we can and as early as we can. It’s a quick turnaround, as we are scheduled to play six games in 18 days. So, that’s a big challenge in itself.

On winning momentum

Owen Coyle: It’s nice to win games, but what’s behind us cannot affect what’s to come. That’s why we need to continue winning games. We have achieved nothing, this is a club which has never been into the playoffs. It is the target this season to give fans something to be excited about. We have a lot of work left ahead of us. So, we must stay focused, concentrated and keep trying to get those valuable points.

Greg Stewart becoming highest goalscorer for Jamshedpur in a season

Owen Coyle: I did tell everybody about the qualities he had in the pre-season. It was a position I’ve been looking for since last season. There was a missing link in the form of a natural No. 10. I had that at Chennaiyin in Rafa Crivellaro.

But, above all that, he has a winner’s mentality. He has been champion at Rangers. When he gets on the ball, of course we get excited because he can take them on, he can create a pass and he can score a goal, so much creativity. He has been a great addition to the league. What he has done is great, but it’ll count for nothing if he can’t do it in the business end.”

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