Chennaiyin FC will be desperate for their first win of the season when they welcome ATK for an Indian Super League clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.
The 2017-18 champions have just the one point to show for their efforts so far after they followed up a 0-3 loss away to FC Goa with a goalless draw against Mumbai City FC on Sunday. They face a tough task against an ATK side that is coming off a morale-boosting 5-0 thumping of Hyderabad FC.
While the performance against Mumbai City was an improvement from their game against Goa, Chennaiyin FC are yet to score a goal in two matches. However, head coach John Gregory is not perturbed and chose to focus on the chances his team has created in these two games.
“We did everything but score (against Mumbai City). We had a lot of chances,” said Gregory.
“We had 18 shots on goal. Not all on target but we certainly had the opportunities to score. I am bewildered that we did not score. The keeper (Amrinder Singh) made an outstanding save from Rafael (Crivellaro). So I am pleased with that side of our game. Nirka (Nerijus Valskis) had a couple of chances as well. There were periods last year where we were not even creating chances. We are creating chances now though,” he added.
The likes of Rafael Crivellaro, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Dragos Firtulescu will be tasked with carrying the creative burden for Chennaiyin and ATK will have to keep them quiet in order to ensure Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis are bereft of any service.
After the problems Goa caused them defensively in the season opener, Chennaiyin will be pleased that they managed to keep a clean sheet against Mumbai City. The defence, led by Lucian Goian, has to contend with the considerable threat ATK’s attacking lineup carries.
David Williams and Roy Krishna were lethal against Hyderabad with their pace and finishing ability while Spanish midfielder Edu Garcia showed his quality with a late brace. The likes of Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj have also impressed on the wings.
Gregory, while acknowledging the firepower Antonio Habas’ side has, feels that they are confident of stopping them on familiar territory.
“We kept a clean sheet the other day (against Mumbai). I thought the back-four defended well. We limited Mumbai to only a couple of opportunities. Defensively we are very pleased. I hope that it is something we can continue to do this season,” said the Englishman.
“ATK had an amazing victory the other night. They scored with every chance they had. With Williams and Krishna, they are difficult to keep quiet. They both come from the A-League where they have done particularly well. But we are confident going into the match,” he added.
Chennaiyin cannot afford to let their guard down against an incisive side like ATK who have made strong starts in both games. They scored in the sixth minute against Kerala Blasters before pumping three goals past Hyderabad in the first half itself.
“We need to be switched on at all times. ATK tend to start games well, which was evident in both the games they have played,” said Gregory.
His opposite number Antonio Habas also highlighted the quality in the Chennaiyin side and urged his team to not take their opponents lightly.
“(Chennaiyin are) dangerous. I dont know Chennaiyin now, but I remember them from the past. Chennaiyin is a strong opponent.
I absolutely respect the opponent, the coach, the players and the fans of Chennaiyin,” he said at the press conference in Kolkata on Monday prior to the team’s departure to Chennai.
Habas would be happy with the way with ATK played against Hyderabad, but will want to team to maintain the intensity against CFC.
The CFC-ATK match promises to be an interesting tussle as both teams look to gain early momentum in a long season.
(With inputs from PTI)