Chennaiyin FC welcome FC Pune City at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Saturday in Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18. The southerners are on a good run of form, coming off the back of an unbeaten run in their last four matches. They, however, conceded a last-gasp equaliser to bottom-placed Delhi Dynamos FC in their previous fixture to drop two points, and will look to reclaim the top spot in the league table by picking up a win against visiting Pune. The Stallions, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last three and also come off the back of a draw in which they conceded an equaliser against Kerala Blasters FC. They themselves can achieve the status of table-toppers by bettering the hosts but Pune will have to be wary of them, seeing how they lost their home fixture against Chennaiyin earlier this season. The Stallions, in fact, have never beaten Chennai in seven matches so far and will attempt to do so without their star man Marcelinho, who’ll miss the match due yellow card accumulation.
HEAD TO HEAD
Chennaiyin FC 5–0 FC Pune City (2 draws)
Rene Mihelic (Chennaiyin FC)
The Slovenian has gone on to become an influential part of his team’s midfield and will have an even bigger role to play in the second half of the season. Even though he was not much of a regular starter to begin with, Mihelic has slowly proved himself to be an almost indispensable member of the squad with his neat passing and understanding of the game. Deft from set-pieces as well, the 29-year-old has a goal and a couple of assists to his name. He will be looking to play a key role when his team come up against Pune.
Ashique Kuruniyan (FC Pune City)
The 20-year-old forward has been one of the revelations of the league this season. Quick and blessed with the ability to go past players, Kuruniyan has lit up the stage with his appetite for the game. He already has a goal and an assist to his name, and has time and again proved to be a handful for the opposition defence in all his outings. Up against a formidable Chennaiyin side, the youngster will look to be at his best and help his team to an elusive win against them.
POTENTIAL STARTING LINEUPS
John Gregory will in all likeliness use the 4-2-3-1 formation, offering depth in midfield and also utilizing the width to good effect.
Goalkeeper: Karanjit Singh
Defenders: Inigo Calderon, Keenan Almeida, Henrique Sereno, Jerry Lalrinzuala
Midfielders: Dhanpal Ganesh, Bikramjit Singh, Gregory Nelson, Rene Mihelic, Jaime Gavilan
Forward: Jeje Lalpekhlua
Chennaiyin FC assistant coach Sabir Pasha on the team’s mentality for the coming fixture: “Each and every match is a pressure match. We have such big players that it shouldn’t be a problem. But we’re not taking the team lightly. They’re a good team, they can beat any team. We’re ready for this. It’s going to be tough for us.”
FC Pune City
Ranko Popovic will probably counter by fielding his own 4-2-3-1 formation with Emiliano Alfaro spearheading the Stallions’ attack.
Goalkeeper: Vishal Kaith
Defenders: Sarthak Golui, Gurtej Singh, Rafael Lopez, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai
Midfielders: Marcos Tebar, Adil Khan, Jonatan Lucca, Diego Carlos, Ashique Kuruniyan
Forward: Emiliano Alfaro
FC Pune City assistant coach Vladica Grujic on the team’s approach for the match: “Look, we’re here to win. We want to win. Chennai are very, very strong. We have to know this. Now it’s time to decide who will enter the play-off. Everybody knows how we play football. Let’s see tomorrow.”
Chennaiyin have won all their home fixtures against Pune
Pune have never beaten Chennai
FC Pune City 0–1 Chennaiyin FC (3rd December 2017 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Pune)
FORM GUIDE (Last five matches)
Chennaiyin FC: D W D W L
FC Pune City: D W W L W