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Chennaiyin, Kerala look to get back on track after poor starts

With the front-runners in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 doing their level best to peel away from the chasing pack, Chennaiyin FC will have to mount a comeback of epic proportions to keep itself alive in the race for the play-offs.

Chennaiyin, Kerala look to get back on track after poor starts
Brazilian midfielder Rafael Crivellaro (left) has been in good form for Chennaiyin FC


Standing in its way first is Kerala Blasters FC, which will visit the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday. Southern foes Kerala (7 points from 8 matches) and Chennaiyin (6 points from 7 games) are yet to hit the ground running in ISL 6, sitting in the eighth and ninth spots respectively.

Regardless of the positions of the teams, this is one fixture in the calendar that brings a lot of feistiness to the table. There is already a bit of argy-bargy going on between both sets of fanatics, who have stuck with the sides through thick and thin since Season 1.

Expect to get a massive adrenaline rush from the contest which cannot exactly be termed as a ‘home’ game for CFC. Manjappada – the Official Fan Club of KBFC – has made its presence felt at the Marina Arena year in year out, sometimes even outnumbering the local supporters with a giant ‘Yellow Wall’.

Despite a number of factors stacked against it, the Owen Coyle-coached Chennaiyin will be itching to post its second win of the season. Due to the unrest in Guwahati that led to the postponement of the away clash against NorthEast United FC, CFC returns to the competition after a brief hiatus.

The two-time champion had been held to a 1-1 draw at Jamshedpur FC in its previous assignment on December 9. After finding goals hard to come by at the beginning of the campaign, Chennaiyin appears to have found the mantra to make the net bulge consistently.

In keeping with his liking for Cristiano Ronaldo, Lithuanian frontman Nerijus Valskis has been on a scoring spree, netting four goals in his last three appearances. Andre Schembri (Malta) is the only other ‘Blue’ to have got past the opposing goalkeeper, but Coyle wouldn’t worry about the name of the scorer as long as the goals keep coming.

CFC has often set up a base camp in rival territory in home matches, thanks to the untiring efforts put in by the midfielders. Brazilian Rafael Crivellaro, in particular, has managed to work out a deadly rapport with Valskis, a sight which would please the eyes of the manager.   

But something Coyle would be concerned with is CFC’s shakiness at the back. The team has let in 11 goals so far, keeping just one clean sheet on the way. Cameroonian forward Raphael Messi Bouli, who is Blasters’ top scorer with four strikes, will be licking his lips looking at the plight of the defence.

Eelco Schattorie’s unit that has been hampered by injuries is winless since its opening day success against ATK and what better occasion to get back on track.

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