The group stages of the inaugural edition of the Indian Soccer League have concluded and Chennaiyin FC are leading the points table with 23 points from 14 matches. Chennaiyin FC has already qualified through to the semi finals of the ISL and are certainly the favourite to win the title.

The Campaign So Far

Chennaiyin FC’s franchise is owned by the likes of Abhishek Bachhan, Vita Dani and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the high profile owners have invested a lot of money and have managed to forge a team that looked a very strong unit on paper, right from the start. Internationally reputed defender, Marco Materazzi, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, was appointed as the player-manager. The overseas recruits of the team featured some big names like Bernard Mendi, Mikel Silvestre, Djemba Djemba, Stiven Mendoza and their marquee player Elano Blumer. The list of Indian players also included stars like Balwant Singh, Gourmangi Singh, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Shilton Paul and Harmanjot Khabra.

The high profile team kicked off their campaign in the right way with consecutive wins in their opening games. The won 1-2 away against FC Goa in their first match. It was followed by a 2-1 victory over Kerala Blasters at home. The shock came in the third match against Delhi Dynamos, where they were hammered 1-4. Chennaiyin FC bounced big from that heavy defeat in the true style by destroying Nicolas Anelka’s Mumbai City 5-1 in their 4th match. After 3 wins in 4 matches, Chennaiyin’s campaign lost a bit of momentum and they drew their next 4 games. The campaign returned back on track as Chennaiyin won the next two matches. Chennaiyin defeated FC Pune City 3-1 at home and Mumbai City FC 3-0 away. These two wins propelled the team from Chennai to the top of the table, surpassing Atletico De Kolkata, who retained the top spot till then from the start of the tournament.

Chennaiyin FC was dealt a body blow, when they lost Stiven Mendoza due to injury for the entire tournament. Their marquee player, Elano Blumer was also due to miss a number of matches due to injury. Elano and Mendoza were the two main goal getters for Chennaiyin FC so far in the tournament and their unavailability impacted on the goal scoring options for the side. This reflected on their performance as well. Chennaiyin FC lost 2 of their next three matches. However, a 1-0 last minute win over Kerala Blasters ensured that Chenniyin FC was the first team to qualify through to the semi finals of the ISl. If Chennaiyin FC wins their last group match they will end the group stages on top of the table.

Positives and Negatives

Elano Blumer, the marquee player for Chenniyin FC has been in splendid form throughout the season. He is infact, the top scorer of the ISL with 8 goals. Some of those 8 goals have come from free kicks, which were absoluetly World Class. Apart from the goals Elano provided leadership to Chennaiyin’s midfield and also provided a number of assists. The injury to him dealt a huge blow to Chenniayin FC, but the good news for them is that Elano has recovered from injury and is ready to play a big role in the knockout stages of the ISL.

Elano has been Chennaiyin's lynch pin

Elano has been Chennaiyin’s lynch pin

Stiven Mendoza, the 22 year old striker, who has represented the under-17 as well as the under-20 national teams of Columbia, was in great form in the ISL for Chenniyin FC. Mendoza proved to be an absolute goal-predator with supreme finishing skills. He was also a very speedy footballer, whose work rate was tremendous and he also contributed greatly to the team’s game play. Stiven Mendoza scored 4 goals in the 9 matches, he played for Chenniyin FC. He also played a major role in creating goals for other players of Chennaiyin FC as well. The penalty which Mendoza won against Atletico De Kolkata, in the absolute dying seconds of the match won a very crucial point for Chennaiyin FC. Sadly, however Stiven Mendoza suffered a terrible hamstring injury on 19th November in Chennaiyin’s match against FC Pune City and that ended his stint in this year’s ISL. Due to the injury, Chennaiyin’s management replaced him with the legendary Alessandro Nesta.

Balwant Singh, is arguably the best Indian striker in terms of potential playing in the ISL. The man from Punjab has had a great 2013-14 season, where he scored 10 goals in the I-League for Churchill Brothers. He was also inspirational in winnning the Federation Cup in 2013-14 season for Churchill Brothers. He was infact the top scorer of the tournament. Balwant has also had a good start to the 2014-15 season. He scored 7 goals for Mohun Bagan in the Calcutta Football League. Thus, Chennaiyin FC had high expectations from Balwant, when they signed him on loan from Mohun Bagan. Balwant has however not lived upto those expectations. He has managed to score just a solitary goal in his 9 appearences for Chennaiyin FC. He has also managed to provide just a single assist. He set up Jeje to score the third goal against FC Pune City. Balwant’s lack of form has been a big negative for Chennaiyin FC and their management and their numerous fans would hoping that he comes good in the knockout stages of the competition.

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