Chennai: Former champions Chennaiyin FC will not only have to overcome their first match defeat but also battle history, when they take on NorthEast United at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. ‘The Highlanders’ are yet to lose a match at the Marina Arena, but the new head coach of Chennai John Gregory, believes that things are bound to change on Thursday.
“Records are there to be broken. Statistics come up all the time. NorthEast might not have lost here but eventually it has to happen,” said the Englishman.
A three-goal blitz by FC Goa all inside the first half left the home side stunned and even a second-half fightback was not enough to carry then over, as they went down 2-3. Three days later they face a young team that impressed one and all with their performance against Jamshedpur FC.
“We have to try and correct our performance. We get our chance very quickly. We want to get back on the field and try to make up for that loss on Sunday,” said the Chennaiyin gaffer at the pre-match conference.
Gregory however erred with his formation on Sunday and the defence was found wanting as Goa scored three through quick counter-attacks. He however is prepared this time and says, “The game has come along at the right time.”
“I certainly wasn’t happy with the starting formation the other night. We looked a balanced team in the second half after changing the shape,” he added.
‘Marina Machans’ forwards Jeje Lalpekhlua and Baoringdao Bodo however looked out of touch against Goa and will have to be on their toes, if Chennaiyin are to win their first match of the tournament. Germanpreet Singh, who missed the previous match because of an injury, is available for selection. So is Raphael Augusto, who suffered a niggle against Goa.
NorthEast United however made a great start and were unlucky not to win against a 10-men Jamshedpur. Possessing a young team with potential future stars, ‘The Highlanders’ have already shown enough glimpses of becoming title contenders come the business end of the season.
“We created a lot of chances and did not get a goal but for me that is not a problem. We know how to reach there. I can tell you that I am not worried that we did not score. At the end of the league, we will have the top goal scorer,” said NorthEast United coach Joao de Deus.
The periphery of the seven sisters, NorthEast has however failed to qualify for the play-offs even once in the past three seasons, but Deus refused to dwell on the past.
“I have nothing to say about the past. I am not here to speak about the past of my team. I was not here. I am here to speak about the present and the future. We are improving,” added the Portugese.
Despite the good start, Deus however is not taking Chennaiyin lightly and talking about them he said, “I had a chance to watch the Chennaiyin-Goa game. Their defenders created high pressure with the assistance of two midfielders and fullbacks. I like the concept and it was just the first match, where they made mistakes in conceding goals. They will improve despite a defeat in the first game. They pressed high and created some counter-attacks. We are wary of them.”