Coach Owen Coyle has overseen a remarkable turnaround at Chennaiyin FC in 2019-’20 Indian Super League and said his team would not change their approach in the final despite ATK’s attacking threat.
Speaking ahead of the showpiece in Goa, Coyle said he was mindful of the opponent’s qualities but isn’t afraid of them.
“I think the mentality doesn’t change,” the Scottish manager said.
“From early January, we had been the in-form team in the league. We had accumulated more points than anybody else in the league since then. So we stick to the same approach as we are confident it will help us win.”
He added: “And it’s going to be the same on Saturday. I’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for ATK, the quality of players they have, and an outstanding coach. But we know that if we are at our very best, we can cause anybody problems.”
Coyle though urged his team to be at their very best in the final as any drop in intensity, concentration and effort could cost them dearly.
“We know from our last game, that we need to do certain things better,” he said.
“Sometimes due to your subconscious nature, you start to protect what you have. But it has no relevance for Saturday. It is a clean slate. Two very good teams going all out to be champions. Two teams who have won the title twice in the history of ISL – the two top teams. Somebody on Saturday night will be the outright top club in the ISL. We want to make sure that it’s us.” he added.
How it all changed for Chennaiyin?
Chennaiyin had a bad start to the season and won just one of their first six matches. The poor run of form saw the departure of coach John Gregory. But things improved after Coyle came in. As a result of several good performances and an eight-match unbeaten run in their last eight fixtures of the league stage, they were able to secure the fourth spot, a feat that seemed improbable when he took charge in December.
In the playoffs, Chennaiyin ran riot in the first leg against FC Goa at home and carried a 4-1 advantage to Goa where they stood firm to secure a win 6-5 on aggregate and book their place in the final of the sixth season of the ISL.
Ahead of their crucial final clash against ATK on Saturday, the head coach of the two-time champions pointed out how a mini-break that Chennaiyin had after his first match in charge helped him work out his plans well. Chennaiyin’s fixture against NorthEast United in Guwahati on December 12 was postponed and that gave Coyle time to think.
“That (game against Jamshedpur) was our first game when Farukh (Chowdhury) put the ball in the net in the 95th minute. It may have jumbled it up for us to get to the playoffs, but the postponement of the game against NorthEast United actually worked in our favour in many ways,” Coyle said, on the eve of the ISL final.
He continued: “So that time allowed me to look at the players during training and for my next game against Kerala (Blasters) I changed my team (first 11). Had we played NorthEast two days later, I probably would have played the same team we played against Jamshedpur because we had no time to access. Having watched the training, I have been able to see how good a player Jerry (Lalrinzuala) was and I had to think of a way to get him in the team.”
Chennaiyin are on an excellent run of form as they prepare to take on ATK and Owen Coyle will be hoping to end what has been a brilliant second half of the season on a trophy-winning note.