Chennaiyin FC’s first challenge of 2020 is a trip to Bhubaneswar to take on Odisha FC in a Indian Super League encounter at the Kalinga Stadium on Monday. Two spots below Odisha FC in the table, a win would draw Chennaiyin FC level with their opponents on 12 points with a game in hand. Chennaiyin FC have been a resurgent and attack-minded team under Head Coach Owen Coyle, having scored seven goals in his three games in-charge.
This will be Odisha FC’s second game at home in Bhubaneswar, having played their previous home games in Pune. Their first time in front of the Bhubaneswar crowd, they ran out 2-1 winners over Jamshedpur FC. As for Chennaiyin FC, they were on the wrong side of a 4-3 result against FC Goa on Boxing Day, having bounced back from 3-0 down at half-time after conceding through major defensive errors.
Playmaker Rafael Crivellaro has been central to Chennaiyin FC’s resurgence under Coyle, who has been at the helm for about a month now. In a fruitful December 2019, Crivellaro registered two goals and two assists and has proved to be the fulcrum for all of Chennaiyin FC’s good work going forward. Having created the second-most chances in the league this season (21 chances), Crivellaro will be looking to continue that against an Odisha FC side that has more often than not leaked goals in the second period of matches.
The reverse fixture between both sides finished 2-2 in Chennai as Odisha FC pegged Chennaiyin FC back on both occasions. Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis scored a second-half brace that evening in Chennai against Odisha FC and will be looking to add to his tally this time around as well. For Odisha FC, striker Aridane Santana is the man in form, having also scored the equalizer in Chennai.
In terms of team news, Chennaiyin FC will be without right-back Edwin Vanspaul through suspension as they search for a first away win of the season. As for Odisha FC, they will be without head coach Josep Gombau on the touchline following two bookings. In terms of playing personnel, winger Jerry Mawihmingthanga might be a doubt.
Head Coach Owen Coyle shared his thoughts about the game at the pre-match press conference, “We are playing against a very good side with a terrific young coach. They are very talented, particularly in the forward areas. We are a talented side ourselves, playing good football and exciting to watch. It will be a tough game, two very attack-minded teams.”
In terms of how his side would approach the match, having been on the offensive with seven goals scored in three matches, Coyle said, “Whether we’re home or away, we approach the game in the same manner. If we change that, it takes away from our strengths. We come here with a lot of respect for Odisha, who have some fantastically talented players with good balance. But if we were to change our philosophy and style of play, it would be detrimental to what we want to do.”
A win would put Coyle’s team level with their opponents, bringing them within striking distance of the top four places with a game in hand. “How they’ve applied themselves, their work ethic and attitude, and when you marry that with their ability, that can win football matches. We’ve had tough games during my regime, tough for different reasons. We have shown we have got ability and can cause real problems to the opponent with our quality.”
“If we do that, we will have a say at the business end of the season. I truly believe as the second half of the season unravels; we will get stronger. We obviously have huge challenges, but that’s why we play. Because if you have momentum at the business end, those are the teams that arrive into the playoff positions.”