Chennai look to maintain lead at home against Gokulam Kerala

Leaders Chennai City FC will look to extend the gap at the top of the 12th Hero I-League points table when they take on Gokulam Kerala FC at home Friday.

The visitors have lost three of their last four games, including a shock defeat to Indian Arrows away, and what will worry coach Bino George more will be the fact that they last won in the third week of November.

Chennai, on the other hand, have looked the most accomplished of sides in this year's league and deservedly hold the top spot.

Brakes were seemingly put on their rampant run when they lost four points in two games but they quickly got back to the rhythm with a dominating 6-1 victory against Shillong in their last game, which should boost confidence ahead of the crucial Gokulam clash.

Gokulam's good run in between, in fact, began with their first leg 2-3 loss to Chennai, where they put up a spirited display and were unlucky to end up on the losing side of that thrilling game. Bino George will do well to remind his boys of that game to instil some much-needed confidence.

Chennai gaffer Akbar Nawas will look no further than his band of brilliant Spaniards to lord over their opponents once again, given 18 of the 22 goals his side has scored have come from them.

Pedro Manzi leads the scoring charts for them with seven goals including two hattricks, while Nestor Jesus keeps stamping his authority and class over the league every passing day with his sublime touches and vision, besides having scored six times thus far.

Nawas said at the pre-game press conference, "I think Gokulam is a strong team. Whenever they play anywhere, they will go all out to make sure that the game is competitive. Whatever happened in the last game, it is very difficult to reference it, because they might change their tactics, their strategies might change players. We have to be aware of what comes."

Both teams, just like Neroca and Shillong in the first game of the day, also play their 11th games of the season, which means it begins their second and final league round as well.

Bino George will know that they are one good run away from getting their title aspirations back on track and will take heart from the brilliant comeback they mounted against Aizawl in their last game.

While showering praise on his Friday opponents, he seemed to give no quarter in the pre-game media chat, saying, "There are some game planners in their team, like Nestor and Sandro, who are creating goals for the strikers but our team are playing good. Even last time we played each other, we were both balanced teams."

He will also be pleased that his new goal-scoring recruit Joel Sunday opened his account with a brace in the same game.

Chennai will also want to guard against any kind of complacency at any stage and will leave no stone unturned to garner full three points at home, knowing that assignments will get tougher as the business end draws nearer.