A file photo of Chennaiyin FC players celebrating a goal. (ISL)
Chennai: Defending champions Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City will confront each other here on Tuesday aware that anything less than a win could severely dent their chances of qualifying for the Indian Super League (ISL) football's semi-finals.
Both sides are presently outside the top four slots that enable semi-final qualification. Chennaiyin are seventh with only 10 points from nine matches while Pune are fifth with 12.
The top four teams in the tournament will qualify for the knock-out stage at the end of 14 league matches. Delhi Dynamos are at the top with 17 points and FC Goa are at the bottom with 10 points.
With four matches still left to be played, no team is guaranteed of a place in the play-off and no team can be ruled out at this stage.
Pune coach Antonio Habas said on Monday their last four league matches are the very "important" as teams keep must work unitedly for a place in the semi-finals.
Chennaiyin's coach also spoke on similar lines, hoping that the last four matches could turn around what has been a disappointing title defence so far.
"We have good chances to make it to the qualifiers. Goa (placed at the bottom) is also hoping, (and) if they do, we can also hope to make it," said Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi, as per an ISL release.
The defending champions have been below par this season, going winless in five consecutive matches. They have conceded 14 goals this season, the highest alongside FC Goa, and seven goals in their last two matches.
Materazzi, however, refused to press the panic button and instead explained how missed chances have contributed to their problems.
"We will keep fighting. We need 30,000 fans at the stadium. I have been a fan as well when I was a kid. It's easy to cheer when the team is winning. We need fans to cheer us in our bad moments," said Materazzi.
Pune are approaching the match after winning two successive matches, against Atletico de Kolkata (2-1) and Mumbai City FC (1-0). But that would amount little if they drop points in this match.
"Everyone has expectations to win a place in the play-off. At the moment, all teams are hoping to qualify and we could have tough matches. We expect Chennaiyin FC to play strong. This is the most important stage of the league. We are expecting to face a strong Chennai," said Habas.
Pune would seek confidence that they are yet to lose an away game, determined not to lose their focus.
"Our intention now is to play high-intensity games, like in high competitions," said Habas.