Chennaiyin need win against Manang and favour from Minerva for AFC Cup knockouts berth

Bidding to make the knockouts of AFC Cup in their maiden appearance, Chennaiyin FC need a win against Manang Marshyangdi Club of Nepal when they meet in their final group match here Wednesday.

A draw in their previous match against Minerva Punjab had dented Chennaiyin's chances of securing a place in the Inter-Zone Semifinals and a win in their next outing may not be enough for them to make history in the continent's second tier club competition.

With eight points from five matches, Chennaiyin are at second place behind Abahani Dhaka (10 points) and they must win against the Nepalese side and hope that Minerva do not lose against the Bangladeshi side in Guwahati in another Group E game.

If Chennaiyin beat Manang and Minerva either win or hold Abahani, the Chennai-based side will go through to the knockout phase of the tournament.

Chennaiyin have a better head-to-head record against Abahani and if the two sides end on same points, the Indian Super League outfit will make it to the Inter-Zone Semifinals.

Only one team from Group E will advance to the knockout phase.

In their first leg match in Ahmedabad, Chennaiyin defeated Manang 2-0 courtesy of goals from Chris Herd and Mailson, and head coach John Gregory will be hoping that his wards secure all three points at the ANFA Complex.

"It's a very important game for us, nothing less than a win matters tomorrow. The focus and attention is on getting three points and nothing else. And we have to hope the other result goes our way, in the game between Abahani Limited and Minerva Punjab," Gregory said at pre-match conference.

"Manang lost 5-0 in the last game and will have a point to prove. We know we face a tough game. We are quite used to pressure. A lot is at stake. Qualification to the knockout stage up for grabs," said the coach.

Asked about playing on an artificial turf, he said, "We have not played a match as such on an artificial pitch. We did train at the Bangalore Football Stadium during the ISL season. But this will be a new experience for our players.

"It's good that we get to practice at the match venue today. From personal experience too, it is difficult and a challenge to play on such an artificial turf. You get different kind of bounce on it. For the home team I'm sure they will be used to it. Let us hope we deal with it well."

Talking about the AFC campaign, he said, "It has been a long, long season. I spoke to Albert Roca at Bengaluru FC last season, who was in a similar situation. He advised me on the disadvantages of playing through the summer and on maintaining the focus and keeping everyone fit.

"Everyone needs to be kept motivated. Sometimes, games come along thick and fast and sometimes they don't. Even boredom needs to be guarded against. But most importantly, everyone is looking forward to winning tomorrow's match and then a break.