Chennai’s performance has hardly failed to impress the onlookers and their results highly unconvincing, leaving now-sacked manager Robin Charles Raja and co-owner Rohit Ramesh baffled. However, Soundararajan sounded upbeat on Friday afternoon as he promised to capitalise on what he branded a big opportunity in his managerial career.
Thanks to the Chennai management, he boasts a top-quality squad that has gelled having played seven games together at the ex-manager’s disposal. Should he manage to eradicate the minor communication issues and polish his strikers’ finishing, he may succeed in reaching his realistic season target – a top half finish.
The Mumbai game presents him the best opportunity to build momentum, as their confidence ought to be low having suffered five consecutive defeats. However, their manager Santosh Kashyap believes his squad has turned over a new leaf with the arrival of new signings.
Chennai are shorn of Karanjit Singh and Abhra Mondal, and the gaffer confirmed that Shahinlal Meloly would deputize for the duo between the sticks. Injured midfielder Haroon Amiri will sit out the game.
With Chennai parting ways with Charles Raja owing to his underutilizing local talents, Soundararajan may play local talents such as Antony Beautin and Michael Regin.
As for Mumbai, Lalchawnkima needs late fitness tests while the newly married Thoi Singh has been pencilled in to return only for matchday nine. However, the Mumbaikars have been handed major defensive boosts, with former Afghanistan international defensive midfielder Djelaludin Sharityar and former Indian international defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo joining the camp.
The Saturday’s game marks the first-ever meeting between Chennai City FC and Mumbai FC.
Soundarajan: “We will analyze them [Mumbai] through videos on Friday evening. They are just above us on the table. Tomorrow is a vital game for us. If we win the match, we can climb to the sixth position in the table. Tomorrow’s game is like tournament finals for us; because, if we lose, moving up the table will become further difficult.”
Santosh Kashyap: “We had a great start, winning two opening games, but playing away from home interrupted our momentum. After losing 3-0 to Bengaluru, we lost 1-0 to Aizawl in a closely-contested game. Despite dominating East Bengal, we conceded twice in 18 minutes to lose. At Minerva, the pitch condition was not up to the mark. Injuries and players’ personal commitments have [also curtailed our momentum]. They [Chennai] are in a bad state while we are in a worse state, and the enthusiasm that comes with the arrival of a new manager [Soundararajan] may work against us.”
Players to watch
Chennai City: Raegan Albarnas
Despite Marcos Vinicius scoring two goals this season, he has often looked one-dimensional as he greatly lacks the technical ability required to spearhead an I-League side. Soundararajan will likely bench him in favour local hero Raegan Albarnas, who has superior dribbling and finishing ability. In the event of his creating a chemistry with Chennai’s eager beaver in Charles de Souza, he will evolve into an automatic starter at the JN Stadium outfit.
Mumbai: Karan Sawhney
Karan Sawhney scored his third and Mumbai’s fifth goal against the Warriors on February 4; however, his goal hardly made a difference as Mumbai’s porosity at the back ensured Minerva registered their first top-flight win. However, in light of the recent defensive reinforcements, his goals – in the event of his scoring – will hold more significance.
Chennai City: Shahinlal; Debabrata, Echezona, Ravanan, Clemente; Edwin, Denson, Ganesh, Prasanth, Raegan, Charles
Mumbai: Kattimani; Asheer, Pratik, Chandra, Raegan Singh; Densill; Hanghal, Pratesh; Steven, Karan, Hitesh