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Indian Super League: Boxing Day blockbuster on the cards

Chennaiyin, Goa are unbeaten in their last four games in the Indian Super League.

Indian Super League: Boxing Day blockbuster on the cards
Chennaiyin FC comes into the contest on the back of a 3-1 home victory against Kerala Blasters FC


While the better part of the city may catch a bit of breath after Christmas celebrations, its local club Chennaiyin FC will strive to land a blow on the high-flying FC Goa in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Boxing Day.

Owen Coyle-managed CFC has come alive in the competition with a four-game unbeaten streak and will look to give its faithful a belated present – three points – on Friday. Despite an upturn in form, Chennaiyin (9 points from 8 matches) finds itself two places off the bottom, engaging in a mid-table melee.

Having played a fixture more than its host, Goa (18 points from 9 matches) has accumulated double of what CFC has managed so far. Sergio Lobera’s side is on a three-game winning run and if Chennaiyin is to bring its uber-attacking opponent back down to earth, it will have to come up with an astute defensive performance.

But even before the first kick of the ball, the two-time title-winner has been forced to move out of its comfort zone. Brazilian centre-back Eli Sabia, an ever-present in the playing eleven, is suspended for the duel following his sending off in the previous contest against Kerala Blasters FC.

Sabia is one of the four CFC players (remaining three – Vishal Kaith, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul and captain Lucian Goian) to have been involved in every minute of action this season. The versatile Masih Saighani is expected to slot in as a natural replacement as the Afghan had operated in that position for his previous employer Abahani Limited Dhaka.

The Chennaiyin backline was tormented by Goa in the reverse fixture that ended 0-3 in Fatorda, but has come a long way since then. With central midfielder Germanpreet Singh adding a bit of steel to the defensive side of things, CFC will pull out all stops to shut the doors on Goa.

On the offensive front, Rafael Crivellaro has been a massive creative influence in the middle of the park, fashioning a flurry of opportunities in the final third. The Brazilian’s prowess was on display against Kerala as he waltzed through the visiting defence to set up forward Andre Schembri for the first goal.

The Maltese returned to the scoresheet versus Blasters, taking some weight off the shoulders of Nerijus Valskis. The Lithuanian striker’s scoring stretch of five goals in four clashes will be music to the ears of Coyle, who helped winger Lallianzuala Chhangte get off the mark in CFC colours in the ‘Southern Derby’.

Ruthlessness in front of goal has been Goa’s hallmark ever since Spaniard Lobera took charge in 2017. With the free-scoring Ferran Corominas (6 goals) once again in the heart of things, the 2018-19 runner-up already has 18 goals under its belt – one of the best in the league. Its defence cannot be discounted either.

The pairing of Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena has thwarted attacks now and then and its immediate target will be to keep Valskis quiet. With two quality teams on display, be ready for a Boxing Day blockbuster.

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