Chennai: Indian Super League (ISL) action returns to Chennai as Chennaiyin FC take on Mumbai City FC in their first home game of the season but a second match overall.
The fans of ISL Season 4 champions would hope for a better performance from their team after a terrible campaign last time around which saw them finish rock-bottom.
"First game in front of the fans and obviously our players want to make an impression. I don't care how we win, we need to get three points. I'd be delighted if we can take maximum points from the next two games," said head coach John Gregory.
Chennaiyin have not had the best of starts, however. They started with a 3-0 away defeat to FC Goa where their defence looked all at sea against a brilliant attack. Centre-backs Lucian Goian and Eli Sabia didn't have the best of outings and could not keep Ferran Corominas and co. at bay. But the Romanian centre-back should be pumped to face his former side with whom he spent two seasons.
Gregory, who was instrumental in Chennaiyin FC's previous title triumph in Season 4 and also oversaw their worst performance last season, needs to arrest the slide and break the rut as soon as possible.
Interestingly, he chose to drop Anirudh Thapa on the bench for their opening game but did bring him on at the start of the second half. Gregory is expected to make some changes to his team to counter the threat of Mumbai City.
"In ISL, the matches come quick and you have to pick up results quickly. New players have to bed in very quickly. I made three changes in Goa and the boys that came on did very well and I might make one or two changes against Mumbai," said the Englishman.
Jerry Lalrinzuala looks a shadow of the player who won the Emerging Player award a couple of seasons back and he will have his hands full when he comes up against Mumbai City's Diego Carlos who is known for his pace and trickery.
The Islanders are brimming with confidence after a tough away win at Kochi in their season opener against Kerala Blasters FC. However, they do have a few concerns.
Jorge Costa has confirmed that centre-back Mato Grgic has been ruled out of the game after the knock he picked up in Kochi while influential midfielder Paulo Machado, who was also injured in that game, is doubtful.
Pratik Chaudhari will partner Sarthak Golui in defence as Mumbai will mostly have to field an all-Indian back four. But Mumbai's attack will concern Chennaiyin as the Islanders are known to play on the counter with star striker Amine Chermiti confident, having scored the winner in Kochi. Add Modou Sougou and Carlos to the mix and Mumbai will certainly pose a lot of questions to the Chennaiyin defence.
"We played against them (Chennaiyin) in pre-season. I watched their team against Goa. That is why I think they will give a difficult game for us. The most important thing is to focus on what we can do," explained Costa.
The pressure is on Gregory and he will certainly demand a better performance from his players on Sunday while Costa will be looking to go home with another invaluable away win under his belt.