Chennai: With a new head coach in Italian World Cup winner Gianluca Zambrotta at the helm of affairs, Delhi Dynamos will open their Indian Super League football campaign against defending champions Chennaiyin FC in Chennai on Thursday.
After a poor first season, Delhi Dynamos made it to the semi-finals last year under Brazillian World Cup winner Roberto Carlos only to lose 1-3 on aggregate to FC Goa.
In a departure from the first two seasons which had seen two head coaches in two years, Zambrotta was brought in for a two-year tenure and interestingly in his maiden ISL fixture, he will face up to his close friend and 2006 World Cup winning team-mate Marco Materzzi at the Chennaiyin dug-out at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday.
Just after his unveiling in New Delhi, 39-year-old Zambrotta, who was mainly an attacking full-back, had talked about building a compact unit, strong in both attack as well as defence.
"I am very happy with the pre-season. We had a good pre-season and am more than happy with it, but the championship starts tomorrow. We will see tomorrow if we have done a good job. We hope to do a good job," said Zambrotta at the pre-match press conference.
"For me, it's important that the team remains compact when we attack as well as when we defend but more importantly it's important to have the winning mentality. I have come here to win something," said the Italian.
Zambrotta will be banking on his marquee player Florent Malouda, interestingly one of the members of French team that lost to Italy in the 2006 World Cup final, to deliver the goods tomorrow.
Chennaiyin, on the other hand, will be playing their first home match of the season, after they played out a 2-2 draw against Atletico de Kolkata in their opening match.
Chennaiyin are also a side with a strong defensive structure and marquee player John Arne Riise will be the pivot of Materazzi's plans at the heart of defence. Riise played for Delhi Dynamos last year.
"I think we have to divide between pressure and obsession. We don't have any pressure to win or obsession to become champions because we have already won the tournament last year. It's a pleasure to defend the title and we will do that until the last match. I am not putting any pressure on the players," said Materazzi.
Conceding penalties has been Chennaiyin's bane since the inaugural edition of the ISL and they did the same against ATK in their opening match with the Kolkata side restoring parity from the spot.
Materazzi said this was part of a learning process, particularly for the younger players in the team.
"I have to agree with the referee that it was actually a penalty (against ATK) and it happened due to inexperience. When you are 18 (years old), you tend to make these mistakes; if not, only 30 year or older players will play. You have to learn from these mistake and be cautious in the penalty area," said the Chennaiyin FC head coach who guided his team to the title last season.
Welcoming Zambrotta, Materazzi said, "I know him as a player and not as a coach. I am happy to see him here in India because this is a great chance for him to grow as manager and I wish the best for him."