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ISL 2018-19: Chennaiyin FC face Kerala Blasters FC in must-win match

Chennaiyin and Kerala have faced each other 10 times with Chennaiyin winning four matches and Kerala two

BS Web Team & Agencies 

Chennaiyin FC vs Kerala Blasters (Photo: www.indiansuperleague.com)
Chennaiyin FC vs Kerala Blasters (Photo: www.indiansuperleague.com)

will take on Blasters FC in an encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in on Thursday with an aim to reignite its faltering campaign.

The defending champion (on 4 points) have struggled to make an impact, notching up a solitary win so far and has suffered six defeats, the most this season alongside FC Pune City.

John Gregory's team bounced back with a win against FC Pune but suffered a setback against Jamshedpur in the previous game.

Now, with a couple of games in the space of four days, the team will be hoping to turn things around before it is too late.

Both teams have a lot to play for and it remains to be seen who can get back the season on track.

FORM: Languishing at ninth in the points table just ahead of a winless Delhi Dynamos, the home side needs to step up several notches if it has to put it across the Blasters, who have been patchy this season.

The famed Chennaiyin defence has not been at its best and 16 goals have been scored against the team so far. It would be a worry for Gregory, who will be desperate for better times.

The forward line too hasn't fired on all cylinders with last year's star Jeje Lalpheklua being inconsistent and being relegated to a minor role.

Perhaps the biggest concern for Chennaiyin has been the ineffectiveness of their strikers in front of goal. Jeje Lalpekhlua, Carlos Salom and Mohammed Rafi have combined for just one goal so far. Questions have to be asked of the strikers and how they can raise their game to ensure positive results for

One bright spark for Chennaiyin though has been the form of Raphael Augusto. The Brazilian playmaker has amassed the second-highest number of passes in the league (584) and the most tackles (43). He has firmly established himself as a pivotal player in the team and will be called upon to deliver the goods against

Chennai have scored 10 goals from 36 shots on target. They have the passing accuracy of 73.48 per cent and have kept one cleansheet.

Blasters itself hasn't been doing very well, with only a win to show. It had allowed NEU FC to snatch a win by conceding late goals and the team would be keen to avoid any more slip-ups. After an opening day win over Atletico de Kolkata (ATK), they are yet to register a victory and are placed seventh with seven points.

David James' men are on a seven-match winless run and the habit of conceding late goals has hurt the team.

The onus is on the established names like Vineeth and Sandesh Jhingan to shine and lift the team's morale. They have four more games before the Christmas break to reignite a faltering campaign.

The Men in Yellow have struggled to score goals and when they have done, holding on to their advantage has been an issue. It was evident in their last game against NorthEast United FC when they ended up losing 1-2 despite leading 1-0 till the 90th minute.

The most frustrating aspect of Kerala’s season so far has been their inability to close a match. The Blasters have conceded a total of seven points from winning positions. Had they collected those points, they would have been in contention for a spot in the play-offs. In addition, the heart-breaking loss to NorthEast United FC would have severely dampened the spirits of most of their players. Things are looking bleak for Kerala and answers are quickly needed if they are to salvage their season.

Kerala have scored 10 goals from 37 shots on target. They have the passing accuracy of 68.5 per cent and have kept one cleansheet.

SQUAD: Chennaiyin's star players haven't delivered so far, perhaps leaving the coach with the option of trying out untested players. There is a chance that the under-performing Karanjit Singh could miss out after his struggles against Jamshedpur.

Gregory has tried several strategies without much success including Carlos Salom in place of the off-colour Jeje.

Sandesh Jhingan will be under the limelight after his performance against NorthEast United. Kerala’s captain put in a Hero of the Match performance, but then turned villain when he conceded a needless penalty in the dying minutes. Despite the error in judgement, the rest of the team will be looking to their stalwart to guide them through these troubling times. Upfront Matej Poplatnik will be brimming with confidence after picking up his second goal of the season against the Highlanders. His partnership with Halicharan Narzary will prove crucial to Kerala’s chances of usurping their neighbouring rivals.

MANAGERS SPEAK: "It's very important for us to get all three points. Our players have to realise the importance of the match to our fans as well. They suffered in the first game when they lost to Bengaluru FC because of the banter. There is a lot of pride at stake. We need a victory and get back in the race somehow," said Chennaiyin's coach Gregory.

Gregory put his team's failure to notch victories to individual errors. Although the players have remained the same, they are no longer "reliable."

"Many of our players were reliable last year. We haven't quite had that this time around. Players you would expect not to make errors have made errors," added the coach.

HEAD-TO-HEAD -- Chennaiyin and Kerala have faced each other 10 times with Chenaiyin winning four matches and Kerala two.


PROBABLE LINE-UPS:

CHENNAIYIN FC: Karanjit Singh (GK), Inigo Calderon, Eli Sabia, Mailson Alves (C), Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anirudh Thapa, Germanpreet Singh, Francisco Fernandes, Raphael Augusto, Gregory Nelson, Jeje Lalpekhlua

KERALA BLASTERS FC: Dheeraj Singh (GK), Sandesh Jhingan (C), Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Cyril Kali, Prasanth K, Nikola Krcmarevic, Seiminlen Doungel, Keziron Kizito, Sahal Abdul Samad, Halicharan Narzary, Matej Poplatnik

First Published: Thu, November 29 2018. 07:14 IST