After making a slow start, Chennaiyin FC gathered pace and qualified for the quarterfinals of the Durand Cup. The Thomas Brdaric-coached team will now aim to continue their good show when they face Mumbai City FC in the quarterfinals at the Saltlake Stadium in Kolkata on Sunday.
After a draw and a loss in their first two games, Chennaiyin FC made a strong comeback in the tournament. They beat I-League sides TRAU FC and NEROCA FC 4-1 and 2-0, respectively, to finish second in Group C and reach the knockout stage.
Spearheaded by captain Anirudh Thapa, Chennaiyin FC have scored nine goals so far and have looked menacing every time they get the ball into the opposition box.
Chennaiyin FC will know that beating former ISL champions Mumbai City will be no easy task even though the Islanders lost their last match against East Bengal. Mumbai City had topped their group to qualify for the last-eight. So Chennaiyin FC will look to play cautiously and exploit the chinks in the opponent’s defence on Sunday.
Chennaiyin FC coach Brdaric also spoke about this strategy. “We will try to defend well. Football is a game of mistakes and whichever team capitalises on these errors can take advantage. We will try not to give our opponents too many opportunities tomorrow and allow them space and gaps to operate. At the same time, we will try to exploit our own opportunities. We should be prepared very well,” he said during a pre-match press conference.
For Chennaiyin FC, Thapa has been a crucial player. He has scored two goals and set up another three. Speaking about his role in the side, the skipper claimed, “Nothing has changed much in my game. Just that I am playing in a more advanced position which gives me the freedom to score goals and be more inside the box. Apart from that, I have been working hard. I am trying to give my best to help the team score more goals.FC
After playing all their group games in Imphal, Chennaiyin have shifted base to Kolkata for the quarters.
Speaking about Chennaiyin FC’s preparations, Anirudh Thapa added, “We are a new and young team. We needed some game time to get used to the new system and how each player plays. We have now got the competitive matches that we needed. Overall, we have been doing pretty well. We have scored some good goals and the best thing is that different goalscorers scored the goals. The players are ready for the Mumbai City match and we are hoping for a good game. Everyone is excited to play the quarterfinals.”