Chennaiyin FC take on second-placed ATK Mohun Bagan in a tough Indian Super League clash at the Fatorda Stadium on Thursday evening. Csaba Laszlo’s primary objective will be to see his Chennaiyin FC team more creative against a resolute ATK Mohun Bagan side led by Antonio Habas. There is massive scope of improvement for Laszlo’s side, who were unable to break down the ten men of SC East Bengal in their previous outing, having to settle for a point following a goalless draw.
The Mariners’ recent form will give the Marina Machans hope to get the win, with Habas’ men having drawn against FC Goa and lost to Mumbai City FC prior to that. Chennaiyin themselves can take the positives from a three-game unbeaten run that includes a win over Odisha FC.
After the uninspiring draw against SC East Bengal, Laszlo pointed out the lack of creativity in midfield to be one of the major contributing factors to the performance. Following Rafael Crivellaro’s season-ending injury, Chennaiyin FC have been finding it difficult to unlock defence. And compounding the worry in the middle of the park is a looming doubt over Anirudh Thapa’s availability for the upcoming clash. The India international hobbled off at half time against the Red & Golds, as he looked to have pulled a muscle just before the break. It will be interesting to see how Laszlo shuffles the pack in this big clash.
Central defender Enes Sipovic was also substituted with injury in the previous game. His partnership with Chennaiyin FC’s Brazilian skipper Eli Sabia has been one of the bright sparks in an otherwise stop-start season, with goalkeeper Vishal Kaith also one of their top performers. Kaith & Co. have kept an impressive five clean sheets in 12 games so far this season, that makes them the third-highest in the league, following Mumbai City’s and ATK Mohun Bagan’s seven shut-outs each.
It was the goalkeepers that came to the fore the last time both teams clashed in the ISL. In the last game for both sides in 2020, Arindam Bhattacharja made a flurry of brilliant saves in the ATK Mohun Bagan goal to deny Chennaiyin FC a victory. It was a dominant performance from the two-time champions; however the elusive goal never came. It was also the match during which Rafael was unfortunately ruled out for the season with damage to his ankle ligaments sustained after a needlessly rash tackle from ATKMB defensive midfielder Pronay Halder.
It could be yet another gritty encounter with very little to separate both sides on Thursday. It will be all to play for as Chennaiyin FC push for a victory that will help them break into the top four while ATK Mohun Bagan need all three points to keep the pressure on Mumbai City FC who are currently top of the pile.