High on confidence after their empathetic win in the last match, a confident Chennaiyin FC will welcome Kerala Blasters FC in a mouth-watering southern derby of the 2022-23 Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, here on Monday.
Riding on Abdenasser El Khayati’s sensational hat-trick and Petar Sliskovic’s two goals, Chennaiyin beat NorthEast United FC 7-3 quite comprehensively last week.
“Of course, the last match gave us a lot of confidence, trust, and some conclusions about what we did and how we can improve. But our focus is now on tomorrow’s match. The team is in good shape, and [there’s] a pretty good atmosphere,” Chennaiyin head coach Thomas Brdaric told the media in a pre-match press conference in Chennai on Sunday.
The southern derby has always caught the fans’ interest with some high-intensity games. A neck-and-neck head-to-head record also reflects the same, with Chennaiyin winning six against Kerala Blasters’ five in 18 matches played so far between them.
Chennaiyin midfielder Edwin Sydney Vanspaul said the players also enjoy the lively atmosphere in derby games. He said: “We really love playing these kinds of games because the atmosphere is more exciting than other matches with fans coming in numbers. Players are motivated, and we all believe in each other. We will try and give our best tomorrow.”
Besides his match-winning heroics in the last match, El Khayati also set a new league record for the most contribution in an ISL match by netting three goals and assisting twice. The Dutch midfielder is now the season’s leading scorer with seven strikes from six games. The Croatian striker Sliskovic is another in-form player for the two-time champions with five goals-third highest in the league.
Brdaric further heaped praises on El Khayati for his contribution but said his side is not dependent on just one player. “Yes, he [El Khayati] is in very good shape; he makes a difference, and of course, we need players who make a difference, and I’m happy we have them in our team. But all our 11 players are able to defend and score,” Brdaric said.
With 19 goals in nine matches, Chennaiyin are also the second-highest-scoring team this season after Mumbai City FC.
On the other hand, Kerala Blasters arrived in Chennai after beating Bengaluru FC 3-2 at home in their last game.
Talking about tomorrow’s game, Brdaric said: “To have good pressing, everybody should work against the ball in coordination and don’t give opponent spaces which will not allow them to unfold their game. We aim to put them under pressure so that they commit mistakes, and then we should exploit it. And we also should not forget our game; we have our strengths.”