Chennai, Jan 15 (IANS) Chennaiyin will be looking to climb up the table and get closer to the top four spots with a win against a struggling NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) in an Indian Super League (ISL) clash here on Thursday.
Since taking charge, Chennaiyin coach Owen Coyle has led his team to two wins and a draw (7 points) in five matches, which is two points more than what his predecessor managed in six matches. The mini-resurgence has seen them move off the bottom of the table, into the eighth spot with 12 points from 11 games. With a game in hand over most of the other teams, they are still six points behind the final playoff spot, which is currently occupied by Odisha FC.
“We still got a chance of getting to the play-offs, but to do that we have to be consistent by winning games. Three points can be invaluable because more often than not there are a lot of draws in this league and those three points can catapult you up the table,” Coyle said.
NEUFC are on a poor run of form, having gone without a win for six matches. Despite starting the season reasonably well, Robert Jarni’s team has faltered and the lack of goal-scoring has affected the recent displays.
Marquee signing Asamoah Gyan was ruled out of the ongoing season due to an injury and Jarni will be hoping a mini-revamp in the January transfer window can get their season back on track.
“We lost our opportunity at the beginning of the championship when we lost a couple of matches in the last seconds of the game. We have a very young and promising team. We lost Asamoah Gyan who is not here, we must do without him,” Jarni said ahead of the crunch tie.
“We are expecting a very tough game tomorrow. Chennaiyin, with their new coach, looks very good but we also believe in our qualities. We must be in the first four and that’s why we are here,” he added.
The highlanders will also miss the services of defensive midfielder Jose Leudo who was sent off in their last outing, a 0-2 defeat away from home at the hands of FC Goa. The game in Chennai is NorthEast United’s third of five consecutive away matches and despite having two games in hand compared to the top six teams, the lack of a goalscoring threat will be Jarni’s biggest concern as they look to move closer to the playoff spots.
Despite having only one clean sheet this season, Chennaiyin emerged as 3-1 victors against Hyderabad in their last match and the team’s front line looked supremely confident. Nerijus Valskis is back amongst the goals, with seven strikes so far this season. Coyle will be looking to take advantage of NorthEast’s lack of confidence and secure full points at home.