Chennai: FC Pune City coach Antonio Habas said that the last four matches in Indian Super League are the "most important" as teams keep their fingers crossed and work towards a place in the semi-finals.
The top four teams in Hero ISL will qualify for the knock-out stage at the end of 14 league matches. Delhi Dynamos are at the top with 17 points and FC Goa are at the bottom with 10 points but with four matches still left to be played, no team is guaranteed of a place in the play-off and no team can be ruled out at this stage.
It's a point that coaches emphasised a lot as Chennaiyin FC prepare to thwart the ambitions of FC Pune City at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai, on Tuesday.
"We have good chances to make it to the qualifiers. Goa (placed at the bottom) is also hoping, (and) if they do, we can also hope to make it," said Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi.
The defending champions have been below par this season. Their winless run of five matches is the longest in their history and they have conceded 14 goals this season, the highest alongside FC Goa.
Chennaiyin FC have also conceded seven goals in their last two matches, equalling their tally of goals conceded from their first seven matches in the league.
Materazzi, however, refused to press the panic button and instead explained how his team could have been approaching this game differently had Nigerian striker Dudu Omagbemi scored against Kerala Blasters in the previous game when his team enjoyed a 1-0 advantage in the first session.
"We will keep fighting. We need 30,000 fans at the stadium. I have been a fan as well when I was a kid. It's easy to cheer when the team is winning. We need fans to cheer us in our bad moments," said Materazzi.
FC Pune City, on the other hand, are back in the race for a top four finish after winning two consecutive matches against Atletico de Kolkata (2-1) and Mumbai City FC (1-0). The team coached by Antonio Habas are now placed fifth but can move up to the second spot behind league leaders Delhi Dynamos if they manage to defeat Chennaiyin FC at home.
"Everyone has expectations to win a place in the play-off. At the moment, all teams are hoping to qualify and we could have tough matches. We expect Chennaiyin FC to play strong. This is the most important stage of the league. We are expecting to face a strong Chennai," said Habas.
FC Pune City are the only side in ISL 2016 who are yet to lose an away game. They have won two and drawn one of their three away matches and with FC Pune City playing four out of their remaining five matches in the group stages away from home, it will be vital for them to maintain their standards, in its quest for a top four finish.
"You need time to build a team. Besides I was banned for the first four matches, so it was difficult. Our intention now is to play high-intensity games, like in high competitions," said Habas.