Chennai: Chennaiyin FC will need to play out of their skin and grab full points in their next two matches, including tomorrow's clash against NorthEast United FC, to stay alive in the Hero Indian Super League.
The defending champions are placed seventh with 14 points from 12 matches and need six points to possibly make the grade. Chennaiyin FC will have to prove they can do an encore, starting with NorthEast United FC at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Saturday.
Last season, Chennaiyin FC were struggling at the bottom for most part but turned their fortunes around with a late surge, not just qualifying for the semi-finals but going on to win the title at FC Goa's expense in Goa.
This time, not everything has worked according to plan for Marco Materazzi but all is still not lost for the defending champions.
"We knew we were in a must-win situation and now we know that we have to win the next two games to get six points and we have shown (in the past) we can battle every team," said Materazzi.
Chennaiyin FC have lost three of their last five matches, including the last one against Mumbai City FC, but they cannot afford any-more slips-ups against Mumbai City on Saturday and FC Goa next week.
NorthEast United instilled life in their campaign with a solitary goal victory over FC Pune City in their last game, a result that helped them stay alive.
NorthEast United had gone six games without a win, losing four of them, but the 1-0 victory over Pune City took them to the sixth spot with 14 points from 11 matches.
"I want to tell the real followers of NorthEast United that we will continue to fight till the end and we will go in with the mind-set of winning in our remaining three games of the league stage," said Portuguese coach Nelo Vingada.
Besides Chennayin FC tomorrow, NorthEast United have to take on the might of Delhi Dynamos on 30 November and Kerala Blasters on 4 December in a battle that is likely to go down to the wire.
NorthEast United are likely to have the services of first-choice defenders Robin Gurung, Gustavo Lazzaretti and Nirmal Chettri, all of whom missed the last clash against Pune City, although for the moment the coach was keeping his fingers crossed.
"Gustavo is in better shape than others but we can’t take risks regarding getting them back as it can kill them for the rest of the competition," said Vingada.
Interestingly, a win for either team will take them to the top four.