Struggling to make a mark this season, defending champions Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City will look to put up an improved display in their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Tuesday.
Last season, the two teams were blazing away and qualified for the play-offs. Chennaiyin FC went on to win the league title, and now both are at the bottom of the table.
Time is running out for both the teams as they face each other in a crucial battle at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium.
John Gregory's Chennaiyin FC are placed 10th after being subpar in both attack and defence. Alongside Pune, they have the worst defensive record in the league with 11 goals conceded.
The coach could make changes and hand game-time to players who haven't been tested.
Gregory Nelson could find himself back in the starting line-up after two commendable performances as a substitute. Karanjit Singh could see his position in the line-up being taken away by Sanjiban Ghosh as the goalkeeper too has been out of form.
SQUAD: Reddy took over from the sacked Miguel Angel Portugal and has been trying to get the team back on track. His first attempt was a disaster as they lost 2-4 against FC Goa but a draw against Kerala Blasters FC suggested his team could turn things around.
He now has a battle on his hand. Brazilian striker Diego Carlos has been handed an additional suspension of two matches for his red-card offence against FC Goa, while Marko Stankovic, who scored a blinder last week, could miss out due to an injury he picked up during the match.
The onus will again be on Emiliano Alfaro, who now has the dubious record of missing two penalties in as many games, and Marcelinho to find their form in front of goal.
MANAGERS SPEAK: "Nobody would have thought that two of last year's semifinalists would be sitting in this position when we are coming close to about one-third of the season. It's our responsibility to dig ourselves out of the hole," said interim coach Pradyum Reddy.
"We have had an embarrassing season so far, with just one point in six games. Talking here won't make any difference, we need to do the talking on the field. Tomorrow night I will be choosing players who have the hunger, and desire to get all three points," said Gregory.
FORM: After scoring only once in their first three games, Pune created and scored goals against FC Goa and Kerala Blasters. On the defensive front, Pune have the worst record this season, having let in 11 goals.
For Pune to really get going, their star attackers Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelo Pereira will need to start scoring sooner than later. The duo has scored one goal apiece so far. Pune will also be without the services of Diego Carlos, who is serving a two-match bench. FC Pune City have scored four goals from 22 shots on target. They have the passing accuracy of 64.22 per cent and have failed to keep even a single clean sheet.
Chennai never really got going this season and have picked up only a single point from their six outings. There's not a particular problem area for Chennai as they have the worst defensive record this season and have been able to score only five goals in six matches.
The Marina Machans have the worst goal conversion rate in the season so far, having scored just five times from their 77 attempts on goal, 23 of them on target. They have the passing accuracy of 73.14 per cent while being able to keep a clean sheet just once.
Along with Jeje, the talismanic Mailson Alves has also looked out of sorts this season, adding to Chennaiyin's woes. In fact, Gregory opted to drop Alves to the bench after the first three matches, and the Brazilian hasn't featured in the Chennaiyin starting XI since. It will be interesting to see if Gregory decides to shake things up against Pune and start with both Jeje and Alves.
If there's one positive the defending champions can take into Tuesday's match, it will be their record against Pune. The Marina Machans have never lost against the Stallions in the Hero ISL, winning six and drawing two in their eight meetings.
Chennai have scored five goals from 23 shots on target. They have the passing accuracy of 73.14 per cent and have kept one clean sheet this season.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: FC Pune City and Chennaiyin FC have met eight times with Chennaiyin FC winning the duels on eight occasions. Two matches ended in draw.
FC Pune City: Kamaljit Singh (GK), Gurtej Singh, Matt Mills, Ashutosh Mehta, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Adil Khan, Jonathan Vila, Nikhil Poojari, Emiliano Alfaro (C), Marcelo Pereira, Robin Singh.
Chennaiyin FC: Karanjit Singh (GK), Eli Sabia, Inigo Calderon (C), Jerry Lalrinzuala, Andrea Orlandi, Thoi Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Raphael Augusto, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Francisco Fernandes, Carlos Salom