Chennaiyin FC will be aiming to make it two wins in a row when they take on Kerala Blasters FC in a Sunday night clash at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, Chennaiyin FC’s designated home ground.
Chennaiyin FC were victorious in their opening game, beating Jamshedpur FC 2-1 courtesy goals from Anirudh Thapa and debutant Isma Gonçalves. Kerala Blasters on the other hand, will be playing their third match of the season, having lost 0-1 to ATK Mohun Bagan and drawn 2-2 against NorthEast United FC on Thursday.
In terms of team news, Chennaiyin FC Head Coach Csaba László reported no fitness concerns after the JFC game, while Kerala Blasters Head Coach Kibu Vicuña mentioned in his pre-match briefing that Sahal Abdul Samad and Rahul KP are back in training after having missed the previous game.
The added importance of this fixture for both clubs’ sets of fans will not be lost on the respective head coaches, who are new entrants in their roles. The tussle has seen aggressive run-ins between supporters from both camps, but this time the fireworks will only be confined to social media.
Currently, the bragging rights lie with Chennaiyin FC, having done the double over Kerala Blasters last season courtesy a 3-1 win at home and a 6-3 triumph in Kochi; the latter becoming a record-breaking away win with no other team having scored six goals on the road in a single ISL game so far.
László became the second Chennaiyin FC gaffer to win the opening game of the season after Marco Materazzi in 2014. In that season as well, Chennaiyin FC played Kerala Blasters at home and returned victorious by a 2-1 scoreline. László will be aiming to emulate that record against the same opponents on Sunday. He will also be looking forward to his team matching the intensity of the opening win against JFC, with seven debutants, including five foreigners giving a good account of themselves.
Along with the usual suspects getting off the blocks in the opening game, what also pleased László was the impact of youngsters Deepak Tangri in midfield and Rahim Ali in attack, the latter coming off the bench for a lively cameo.
Kerala Blasters though will come into this game hungry, having let go of a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 against NorthEast United in their previous game. Chennaiyin’s defence will have to be resolute, especially from set-pieces as they look for a first clean sheet this season.
“It will be important for us to show extra desire in this game, as it is a derby. The fans are not in the stadium, but we know how much this means to them watching at home. We will give our best, continue to enjoy our football and hopefully collect all three points,” László commented in his pre-match chat with the media.
“Chennaiyin FC played very well against Jamshedpur FC. They have one of the best offensive midfielders in the league in (Rafael) Crivellaro. They have some of the best who were very important last season. They got a very successful second place, they have a very good team,” said Kerala Blasters Head Coach Vicuña during his pre-match press interaction.