Another South Indian derby on the cards as we have Chennaiyin FC (CFC) who lock horns with Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai on the 22nd of December, at 8:00pm IST. Both the teams face each other on the back of a win and a win for the Marina Machans can see them top the table but it would be a tough ask against this resilient KBFC side who are looking to close the gap to the top.

A fixture such as this one, has always been important for both the clubs in the past season. The kind of importance that this fixture carries is something that cannot be put into words and the manager seems to understand the stakes in the game. “I’m never satisfied, we sat and spoke to my players and I told them we should have more points. I’ve messed up a couple of times. We should have more points but I’m delighted with the way our season has gone. The players have worked hard.”

“I’m looking forward to the Kerala game. It is going to be tough. There are no easy games in the ISL. Every match presents a different problem. We know it means a lot to our fans, just like last week (BFC 1 – 2 CFC). So, we’re ready and prepared. We are in a good condition and we have a full squad to choose from.”  

The manager has also been very happy about the atmosphere that the Chennaiyin fans have created in the games and how it has helped the team a lot. “I hope it’s not hostile. We are playing our local rivals and I believe last year, there were a lot of yellow jerseys in the stands for this fixture. This season, the atmosphere (in JNS Chennai) has been amazing and the ATK game was unbelievable. You saw my celebration after our winner. That had a lot to do with atmosphere. Our fans make a lot of noise. They are supportive of the team and we’ve given them an opportunity to do that by scoring goals. It will be a great atmosphere tomorrow and hope we can do the same here at the Marina Arena against KBFC,” said the Englishman.

Kerala Blasters’ Viking Clap

Gregory also made it a point to ensure that even though Kerala have not won in Chennai at all, it will have no effect on how they will prepare for the game against them. “We need to be on the front foot and need to be at 100%”

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Kerala Blasters look like half the team that they were in the previous edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). Having won just one game so far in their campaign, the team’s stars are misfiring and their maiden win in this tournament could not have come in a better time. They’re up against an in-form Chennaiyin FC who are on a high after beating the ISL debutants Bengaluru FC.

Rene seemed very confident about his side’s progress in this competition ever since their first game, “First of all, I reassure the players that we are in an on-going process as far as the team developing. If you look at our progress, putting FC Goa aside, we are getting positive going forward. We are creating chances and hopefully can continue to score goals.”

The Dutch football coach spoke about how important he considers clean-sheets to be and how his team believes the same. “We have stressed the importance of clean-sheets. That earns you the right to play. The result in Goa was an accident. We looked strong defensively last week. It was our first win of the season and it looks very positive.”

Meulensteen has stressed on the importance of clean-sheets to players

Chennaiyin facing the Blasters has always been a feisty affair and Meulensteen has been looking forward to this fixture. “This is what you want to do. Play in big games. Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC are top of the table. Chennaiyin are a very good team with a good manager. They have good players and have been playing well but we have stumbled into the season really. However, the pitch looks good and I hope we can put a good performance.”

Meulensteen also confirmed that Berbatov will be missing the match due to injury and as will Pritam Singh. “Berbatov is out and Pritam Singh dislocated his shoulder in training, other than that we are full strength”.

The former Manchester United coach spoke of his side’s target this season and how that making it to the play-offs is what they’re looking at now. “You have to stick to your play from the beginning, which is to qualify for the play-offs. It is the aim of every team because that is the format of the tournament. We are only six games in and there is plenty of time left. Don’t write any team off; even the bottom-placed team can finish in the play-off spots.”