Chennaiyin FC head coach Thomas Brdaric (L), Captain Anirudh Thapa at the pre-match press conference
Chennaiyin FC head coach Thomas Brdaric (L), Captain Anirudh Thapa at the pre-match press conference Manivasagan N

Chennaiyin FC returns to ‘Marina Arena’, faces fierce rival Bengaluru FC

With the bout against fierce rival Bengaluru coming close on the heels of the 2-1 victory over ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata, Chennaiyin will have momentum on its side.

CHENNAI: The people’s game will be back in front of the Chennai people in a few hours from now. After a prolonged gap, Chennaiyin FC, the city’s football pride with two Indian Super League trophies, will return to the ‘Marina Arena’ here, for a Friday feast with Bengaluru FC, against which it played its last league match at home more than two-and-a-half years ago.

In the intervening period when COVID-19 placed itself centre stage, Chennaiyin suffered in the absence of fans, who could not egg their beloved team on from the stands. But, CFC, competing with newfound resolve under head coach Thomas Brdaric, is set to be reinvigorated following the reopening of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium gates for spectators.

“We want to feel the atmosphere. We are preparing for the battle. I know that the spark should come from the field and jump (move) to the stands. But, the spark can also come from the fans and jump (move) to the pitch when the team needs it. We need to be together in this battle,” said Brdaric on the eve of the southern ISL contest.

With the bout against fierce rival Bengaluru coming close on the heels of the 2-1 victory over ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata, Chennaiyin will have momentum on its side. Although CFC did not hit high standards in its ISL 2022-23 opener, Anirudh Thapa and Co. managed to seal three points, thanks to quicksilver substitute Kwame Karikari.

After contributing a goal and an assist in 30-odd minutes, the Ghanaian forward has given the German manager a real selection headache. Brought on in the second half of the previous match, jack of all trades Edwin Sydney Vanspaul and left-back Aakash Sangwan too have made a case for themselves to be included in the starting line-up.

So, Brdaric, who will set foot at the ‘Marina Arena’ for the first time in a competitive game, will be considered brave if he copies and pastes his first eleven. The 47-year-old cannot afford to err while setting his team up as CFC will face a galaxy of stars, including the seasoned strike duo of Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna.

Sivasakthi on ‘home’ turf

The Simon Grayson-coached BFC has made the trip to Chennai after a nerve-racking 1-0 win over NorthEast United FC in Bengaluru. Meanwhile, sprightly forward N Sivasakthi, one of the chief architects of the Durand Cup 2022 triumph with five goals, will be keen to impress on ‘home’ turf – Tamil Nadu – if presented gametime. Sivasakthi was handed his maiden ISL start in the last match, but could not make his way to the scorecard.

The state’s passionate football followers love Sivasakthi to the core, with some Chennaiyin fans from B Stand Blues – supporters group – even going to the extent of saying that they would not mind the 21-year-old bagging a goal, preferably an inconsequential one.

At the end, who and which team will have a ‘Good Friday’?

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