Chennaiyin FC host an invigorated FC Pune City with Materazzi’s men in need of form and points.
Chennaiyin FC come into the match on the back of a crushing 3-1 defeat at the hands of their South Indian rivals Kerala Blasters, a loss which sees Marco Materazzi’s men reeling at 7th place and winless in the last five matches.
FC Pune City, on the other hand, has seen a completely opposite turn of events, compared to their opposition. After a poor start to the season, the Pune side has settled in well into Antonio Habas’s tactics, who seems to be weaving his magic on the franchise, as he had previously done with Atletico De Kolkata.
The Pune side comes into the game full of confidence thanks to a 1-0 win over Mumbai City FC in the Maharashtra derby, a win which has seen them being catapulted into the 5th spot, just 1 point behind Atletico De Kolkata, who currently occupy the last qualification place at 4th.
Chennaiyin FC find themselves reeling towards the bottom. The defending champions have, in all honesty, failed to cope with the departure of core star players Stiven Mendoza and Elano. Italian striking duo ofDavide Succi and Maurizio Peluzo have failed to set the league alight with their performances while Dudu Omagbemi, the Sporting Clube De Goa front-man has been unable to get going thus far.
While attack has been a grey area, the goalkeeping department has provided more howlers than others. Karanjit Singh was dropped after questionable positioning in the match against Delhi while Duwayne Kerr has been, in general, the worst signing of the campaign thus far.
The custodian has been miserable in his outings for the Super Machans, which has added to the troubles of Materazzi. As far as the Indian contingent is concerned, Baljit Sahni’s performances have not justified his place in the starting eleven and one wonders if the Italian manager would consider deploying Thoi Singh in an attacking midfield role, with the player receiving only 45 minutes or so of playing time up until now.
All eyes will, once again, be on Jeje Lalpekhlua, who will be tasked with the responsibility of providing the ammunition to the Chennaiyin FC attack.
FC Pune City
It is a case of contrasting journeys as The Hard Tackle takes a look at FC Pune City. If Chennaiyin FC have seen howlers from their goalkeeping department, Antonio Habas has been lucky to have the reliable Edel Bete on his side. The duo have worked with each other at Atletico De Kolkata earlier and Edel Bete’s form has been one of the key components of FC Pune City’s recent form.
Eduardo Ferreira has been a rock at the back marshalling his troops with gumption and really has been one of the best performers in the league altogether this season. Mohamed Sissoko, too, has put in his fair share of tackles, leading the league in that department, but has been largely unimpressive with a tendency to pick up cards and give away free-kicks for cheap.
One of the biggest pluses for Habas has been the return of Bengaluru FC’s star Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who has turned out to be the difference maker for FC Pune City since his return from a historic AFC Cup campaign where Bengaluru FC fell just short of the trophy.
FC Pune City still have some way to go to grab a spot in the knockout phase but they are the in-form team at the moment and a win against Chennaiyin FC could go a long way in securing qualification to the next phase.
Chennaiyin FC (4-3-3) : Karanjit; Wadoo, Sabia, Mendy, Jerry; Mulder, Hangal, Raphael; Jeje, Succi, Peluso
FC Pune City (3-4-3) : Edel; Gouramangi, Ferreira, Augustin; Bheke, Sissoko, Lucca, Narayan; Tato, Eugeneson, Anibal
Chennaiyin FC 1 – 3 FC Pune City
FC Pune City go into the match as slight favourites based on form. Habas has a reliable core and Lyngdoh’s return has added the much-needed spark in the lineup. And based on the contrast on the form table, Chennaiyin FC would find it difficult to get a point or three against the Pune side. Jeje Lalpekhlua could trouble the scoresheet but the fixture looks like it has a Pune win written all over it.