The Italian was in philosophical mood before what could be his last home game at the helm of the defending champions…

Despite admitting that his side often spurned opportunities to kill off games this season, Chennaiyin manager Marco Materazzi hopes to make the Indian Super League playoff s against all odds.

Having mustered 14 points in 12 outings, the Marina Machans currently sit seventh in the ISL standings, three points behind fourth-placed Delhi Dynamos. Although they will need favourable results from left and right besides they themselves winning their last two games, the Italian manager refused to write his team off.

“We’ve wasted too many chances and opportunities,” said Materazzi. “At Kolkata, we conceded a late goal; same thing goes for the Pune game as we conceded a free-kick [that led to a goal] in the last minute. We could have sealed the game against Mumbai and also in Kerala, where we were 1-0 in the first half; we could have easily scored the second goal, but we went on to concede two in the second half.

“I regret that the league this year is not up to our expectations. We didn’t play up to what we thought we could, but we’re now looking to collect six points and hope that the results from other teams be in our favour.”

With Davide Succi, Dudu Omagbemi, Jayesh Rane, and every Indian midfielder being unreliable, Chennaiyin have greatly struggled to be consistent this season. Asked if his team failed to replace Elano Blumer and Stiven Mendoza – last season’s standout performers – the former Italy international said, “Maybe, more than Elano, it is Bruno[whose absence is significant]. In the last four games, Elano was not playing. It was Bruno [Pelissari], who made the difference, besides Mendoza. In the first year, Elano did very good. Maybe, if he had not suffered an injury in the first season, we could have won the title in the first year as well.”

Amidst talk of a possible merger of the ISL and I-League in 2017-18, the Chennaiyin manager hinted that the merger could come to fruition as early as next year although he branded his claim as mere heresy. Thanking the ISL and Chennaiyin for his time in India as a manager, he stressed upon how unlikely keeping players in the country for seven months – the length of the rumoured new tournament – would be.

“Undoubtedly, it won’t be easy to call up the big names and marquee players because as far as I know – it has been rumoured – the league will start in November and end in April or May,” alleged Materazzi. “In this case, it won’t be easy for the big names to stay on hold for six or seven months and wait to start over again. I think it would be difficult to keep the enthusiasm high for that much time but, for me, the best solution has been to keep it like it is now – keeping it for three or four months. However, it’s not up to me,and I respect the decision. I think the ISL and all the people in-charge of it would do the best to develop football in India.”

Chennaiyin head into their final league game at home knowing a loss would crumple their hopes of making the playoffs for the third successive season.

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