Chennaiyan FC suffered a heart-break in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League when they were ousted in the semifinals by Kerala Blasters despite having topped the initial round. The franchise had a month long pre-season camp in the Italian city of Perugia under the watchful eyes of Marco Materazzi who will be donning only the coach’ s hat this season and the team will be looking to leave behind the heartbreak of last season by winning the title this season.
Goalkeepers: Karanjit Singh, Nidhin Lal, Apoula Edima Edel Bete
Armenian international Apoula Edima Edel Bete who represented Athletico De Kolkata last season is the foreign custodian in the team. Apoula gave a good account of himself in the finals last year where he won the man of the match award for his performance. Apoula brings with him the experience of having played in the Europa League but with only six foreign players allowed on the field per team, it remains to be seen how many matches he starts. Despite being injured for a large part of last season, Karanjit Singh remains one of the best custodian in the nation and the Salgaocar player has been a part of the national team setup for quite some time now. He is expected to play a major part this season specially if Materazzi chooses to utilize his foreign players in the out-field positions. Mumbai FC goalkeeper Nidhin Lal is the third goalkeeper in the team and is likely to be called into action only when Karanjit and Apoula are unavailable.
Defenders: Justin Stephen, Dhanachandra Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Abhishek Das, Lalhmangaihsanga Ralte, Bernard Mendy, Eder Monteiro Fernandes, Mailson Alves, Alessandro Potenza.
Chennaiyin FC will be once again led by former French international Bernard Mendy who scored one of the best goals in the inaugural edition when he scored with a byccyle kick against Kerala Blasters. Mendy, who became a fan favorite last season, will have to led from the front given that he will not have Mikael Silvestre accompanying him this time. 32 year old Brazilian central defender Eder Monteiro Fernandes is expected to partner Mendy in the heart of the defense. The Brazilian brings with him the experience of having played for top tier sides in Brazil, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece. Former Italian U-21 international Alessandro Potenza who has won 2003 UEFA Under-19 Championship and 2004 UEFA Under-21 Championship with Inter Milan is another option Materazzi has at his disposal. The 32 year old has had stints with Fiorentina, Parma, Chievo, Catania and Genoa in Italy and Real Mallorca in Spain and is also capable of playing at the right back position. 27-year-old central defender Mailson has spent almost his entire career in the lower divisions of Brazil is the fourth foreign defender in the team.
The left back spot in the team is likely to be occupied by Dhanachandra Singh who played 14 of the 16 games for Chennaiyin FC last season and was expectedly retained by the franchise for the second edition. Lalhmangaihsanga Ralte of Royal Wahingdoh impressed with his marauding runs down the flank in the I League and is expected to take Dhanachandra’ s place when is away on national team duty. Mehrajuddin Wadoo who is capable of playing either as a defensive midfielder or a central defender or even as a right back was signed by Chennaiyin FC after he was not retained by FC Pune City. The player from Kashmir is known for his hardworking attitude and his versatility could prove to be handy for the team from Chennai. Justin Stephen joins Chennaiyin FC after an impressive season with Mumbai FC in I League and will be looking to make use of whatever opportunities he gets. 21 year old Abhishek Das of East Bengal is the right back in the team and he will have a role to play with matches scheduled at a brisk rate.
Midfielders: Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Thoi Singh, Godwin Franco, Dhanapal Ganesh, Zakeer Mundampara, Raphael Augusto, Manuele Blasi, Bruno Pelissari, Elano Blumer
Marquee player Elano Blumer who had an impressive last season with Chennaiyin FC where he finished as the top scorer in the league will once again be the key player in the Chennaiyin midfield. Elano, who played for Brazil in the 2010 FIFA World Cup is known for his accurate free kicks and brilliant range of passing. Italian central midfielder Manuele Blasi is likely to occupy the role of an enforcerer in the Chennaiyin midfield. The 35 year old has played for a host of Serie A clubs – Juventus, Perugia, Parma, Fiorentina and Napoli in addition to making eight appearances for the Azzurri. Atl tico Paranaense’ s attacking midfielder Bruno Pelissari who scored four goals for Chennaiyin last season has been retained by the club and the 22 year old would look to carry on from where he left last season. 24 year old Raphael Augusto loaned from Fluminense is an all round midfielder and is the fourth foreign midfielder in the team.
Chennaiyin FC broke the bank for Bengaluru FC’ s midfield general Thoi Singh by roping him for 86 Lakhs. Thoi has been one of the most consistent player in I League over the last couple years and has scored important goals for Bengaluru in addition to notching up several assists. Harmanjot Singh Khabra had a stellar last season for Chennaiyin and it was no surprise that he was retained by the franchise. Khabra was primarily used as right back for Chennaiyin FC and it looks likely that the utility player will be used in that position once again. Dhanpal Ganesh who made his debut against Nepal in the World Cup qualifiers could be seen in the role of the defensive midfielder. The 24 year old central midfielder Dhanpal comes from Tamil Nadu and is expected to cement his place in the national team in years to comes. Renowned for his long range shots, Godwin Franco could feature on the right side of the midfield for the Abhishek Bachaan co-owned team while central midfielder Zakeer Mundampara could be seen coming off from the bench in a few matches.
Forwards: Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jayesh Rane, Balwant Singh, Fikru Teferra Lemessa, John Stiven Mendoza
Chennaiyin FC have retained the services of Colombian forward John Stiven Mendoza for the second season of Indian Super League. The 23-year-old who scored four goals last season for Chennaiyin will be joining the team on loan from Brazilian giants Corinthians. Chennaiyin FC have roped in Ethiopian striker Fikru Teferra Lemessa who scored five goals for Atl tico de Kolkata last season. Fikru is known to have discpline issues and was handed a two match ban last season for head-butting FC Goa’ s Gregory Arnolin and it remains to be seen how Materazzi handles him. The forward line also features Balwant Singh who was the first Indian goalscorer in the Indian Super League last season. Balwant had an impressive season with Mohun Bagan and it remains unclear as to why he is consistently overlooked for the national team. Jeje Lalpekhlua finished as the top Indian goalscorer last season and is expected to compete with Balwant for the starting spot while the young Jayesh Rane could also get a look as the season progresses.
Having donned both the manager and player hat last season, Marco Materazzi will only be taking care of the coaching department this time around. A no nonsense man, Marco Materazzi definitely commands the respect of his players and he would be looking to guide Chennaiyin FC to glory this time around.
Chennaiyin FC won two of the four practice matches they played in their pre season camp and have retained the core of the squad which helped them finish top of the table in the league stages. The team has also made important additions in form of Thoi Singh, Godwin Franco Eder Monteiro Fernandes and Alessandro Potenza. Under the tutelage of Marco Materazzi, the team from Tamil Nadu looks all set for a title challenge this time around.