CHENNAI: There will be place for only one team from the South in the semifinals of the Hero Indian Super League as Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters look to outwit each other in a crucial 11th round clash in Chennai on Saturday.
The last year’s semi-final clash between the two clubs in this city had witnessed in a high-voltage clash with Kerala overcoming the challenge to progress to finals. This year, Chennaiyin FC are at the bottom of the table with 10 points from 10 matches while Kerala Blasters have 11 points and are just above their rivals in seventh spot.
“There is not much to think about. We have to take one game at a time and hope that we win this one. After that, we will think about the next game,” said Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi.
Chennaiyin FC have lost three matches in a row and now must win their remaining four matches to have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the semi finals. Their remaining matches include Delhi Dynamos (November 24), Mumbai City FC (December 1) and FC Pune City (December 5), with the last game played away.
Materazzi denied popular perception that Chennaiyin FC are too predictable with Stiven Mendoza as striker, Elano Blumer as the attacking midfielder and Raphael Augusto in midfield.
“I wouldn’t say we are predictable because when Jayesh was playing and we played against Goa, we scored four goals against a team who later scored seven (against Mumbai). I would like my players in optimal physical condition all the time but that’s not possible. The choice of Raphael is simple. He is an amazing player. He is a top player and that’s why I pick him,” said Materazzi.
One player who Materazzi surprisingly did not pick for the last match against Atletico de Kolkata — which they lost — is Mendoza. The league’s joint highest goal-scorer with six goals was left on the bench and the manager explained why.
“Mendoza was not injured and it was my choice. It’s my responsibility. We wanted to make Fikru play for the full 90 minutes,” said Materazzi.
A resurgent Kerala Blasters kept their hopes alive with a 4-1 victory over NorthEast United but will need still need plenty of more points to make it to the last-four stage.
“I think every game (from now on) is cagey. We are going into this game with plenty of confidence. There will be a few nerves but if we can get our players to get going, it will be exciting. Hopefully we will get a positive result,” said coach Terry Phelan.
“There is plenty of confidence in the team. We have just come off a great result against NorthEast. You’ve got to play with confidence. Obviously it’s very tight at the moment. It’s a must-win game for both teams. I am sure we can get a result. It will be nerve-racking at the start,” said Phelan.