Preview: Chennaiyin FC go into their final Indian Super League (ISL) game against Mumbai City FC on Saturday with an eye on a win and possibly the second spot on the points table, which could determine its play-off rival.
John Gregory's team comes into the match after a narrow 1-0 win over FC Goa and draws against Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters.
A late goal saw the former champions snatch a draw against Jamshedpur while it was a goalless affair against Kerala. The lack of goals from their strike force in the past few games may worry the coach but he would be aware of the abilities of Jeje Lalpekhlua to come good when it matters.
Mumbai's hopes of a play-off spot were dashed following a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Delhi Dynamos. They will be playing for pride at the Marina Arena and could dent Chennaiyin's chances of climbing to the second spot, by pulling off a win.
Gregory will be wanting the team to strike form ahead of the play-offs and a victory will give them the momentum. His ace striker Lalphekhlua has failed to score in the last five games and the Mumbai fixture provides him an opportunity to regain his touch.
The role played by Mailson Alves, Henrique Sereno and Inigo Calderon has been key to Chennaiyin's fortunes and have kept things tight in the middle. They will need to do the job against the strong but inconsistent Mumbai forward line.
There are no injury worries for Gregory and he would love to see the team come through unscathed and with three points.
The Chennaiyin coach said he was not bothered about their semi-final opponents and will start focusing on that game only after the match against Mumbai.
"I will make one or two changes. Give minutes to some of the guys who were on the bench or upstairs. They thoroughly deserve the chance.
If they perform well enough, and they fit into the system, I always have a (selection) headache (for the next game)," he said at the pre-match media interaction.
He praised the players for the manner in which they have gone about things and said he hoped the team can progress further.
"I've got a group of incredible players. I've been with several teams in my career but never known a group quite like this one. Absolute pleasure to be around and work with. They deserve all plaudits. I hope we can at least take one step further (and qualify for the final)," Gregory said.
Mumbai City FC's Costa Rican coach Alexandre Guimaraes said though the team's qualification hopes have been dashed, there was still plenty to play for.
"We have not lost our perspective in terms of playing the last game with all the resources available for us to play. So, I will put the best players available to play, because we have been through a lot of situations and injuries and let's see who is available.
"We will try to win the game. If we can win, we can finish sixth," he said.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 23:19:04 IST