Kerala Blasters FC & Chennaiyin FC Play Out a Tumbleweed

With only 3 games to go for each team, this is proving to be the last stretch of the great race for the knockout spots. Chennaiyin FC, unlike others like Kerala Blasters FC, don’t have to worry so much about their qualification because they are in a very good position league table position wise.

Still, this doesn’t mean that they can let complacency creep into their game and no one will know this more than their Head Coach, Marco Materazzi. Materazzi, a FIFA World Cup winner with Italy, will bring all his top flight experience to bear on his players.

Besides, seeing the big and dangerous guy staring at you like you need to do more should be enough for any man to buck his game up. You can rest assured that Materazzi will be giving them all the looks they deserve especially after their humbling, nay, humiliating defeat to Northeast United FC

David James will try to have the same impact on his players and he has the 6’ 2’’ stature to make it happen too. Add to that his, ruggedly dangerous looks with stubble and you have a dangerous cocktail of highly flammable material.

Honestly, his players may also need a firm foot up their rumps because their last defeat was no less humiliating than Chennaiyin FC’s. This one shaped up to be a perfect one for the neutrals like me*.

Kerala Blasters FC & Chennaiyin FC Team News

Iain Hume, Kerala Blasters FC

Iain Hume, Kerala Blasters FC

A host of changes were made by both player managers. Kerala Blasters FC’s changes had a wholesale nature to them as they replaced 6 players from their starting line-up.

I won’t go into each and every one but the most important ones were that Falvey and Hume were played while Hengbart was hooked.

I predicted Hume and Falvey’s inclusion but missed Hengbart entirely. In hindsight, it’s not a bad change because Hengbart was looking lethargic with fatigue in his last outing.

There was an interesting change for Chennaiyin FC too as Materazzi chose Cristian over Bruno Pelissari. Bruno Pelissari had a sorry excuse for a game last time out so it’s not a surprise that Materazzi chose to remove him from his starting line-up.

A Tentative First Half

Sandesh Jhingan, Kerala Blasters FC

Sandesh Jhingan, Kerala Blasters FC

Chennaiyin FC looked far more confident than the Keralites in the first few minutes of the first half. But, the match quickly settled into the midfield battle that was expected to be the centrepiece of this clash.

There were constant breaks in the play and the game looked slightly sluggish. David James went down again in the 19th minute as he was in the last game.

In the press conference before the game, James had said that he was completely fit to continue but it seems that he was overly positive about his fitness levels.

James went off for Sandip Nandy. It was a typical case of youth being brought on for a veteran. Sandip Nandy is 39 while David James is 44!

The Kerala Blasters FC player Sandesh Jhingan looks like a very good right back. The Indian Super League official website describes him as a central defender and I can see by his style how he can play in central defence too.

I think he has a bright future just like Romeo Fernandes of FC Goa. He is my second pick as a player to watch out for. I believe the ISL has done him a world of good too. He’s constantly improved from one game to the next. Keep an eye out for him. He’ll be a star**.

The rest of the game continued to be a midfield battle with consistent turnovers. There is virtually nothing substantial worth reporting. Let’s hope the second half turns out to be better.

The Second Half Fails To Entertain As Expected

Within one minute of the second half, Kerala Blasters FC created a good chance for Hume. The ball was put through the defence to set Hume free who skewed the ball wide of the far post.

The second half was slightly better than the first in terms of continuity but it was still a midfield battle. However the slight improvement did give me hope that the game would light up as it progressed.

David James did try to help the game by bringing on Pedro Gusmao, a midfielder, for the ineffective Avinabo Bag, who is a defender. Materazzi tried the same thing by bringing on Pelissari for Cristian.

Unfortunately, the game was quite slow and boring. Its games like these that give football a bad name. Granted, both teams wouldn’t have minded a single point from a tough game but still, it’s the watchers who suffer.

One Goal To Rule Them All!

Bruno Pelissari, Chennaiyin FC

Bruno Pelissari, Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC’s Pelissari did provide a moment of brilliance in the game. He ran with the ball from Chennaiyin FC’s all the way from 18 yard box to Kerala’s box and scored with a left footed curler.

That goal was so wonderful that it wouldn’t have been out of place in any of the high profile football leagues that you watch.

Heck, the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s would’ve appreciated that goal. Kerala Blasters FC 0 – 1 Chennaiyin FC.

With that goal, Chennaiyin FC go 5 points clear at the top of the table. I don’t think they’ll be caught now by anyone in the league. Materazzi will be very happy.

My Conclusion of a Poor Match

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

This was a game between two teams that were more interested in not losing than winning.

I expected Kerala Blasters FC to be a little more adventurous in the latter part of the second half but they seemed to lack the cutting edge required.

Chennaiyin FC did have the cutting edge in the form of Pelissari though. That goal made watching the game almost worth it.

Kerala Blasters FC were woeful, however. Watching them try to not lose while trying to get a goal was depressing at best. In the end Kerala Blasters FC deserved what they got. They were at home and they couldn’t go for 3 points with 60,000 fans behind them?

I feel bad for Jhingan, Hume, and co. This was a tactical mistake from David James than a mistake of their players. Serves them right to lose on a counterattack for playing like this.

Chennaiyin FC will be very happy with the result. They had a wonderful strategy of snuffing out Kerala Blasters and they implemented it perfectly. To be honest, their tactical plan was helped by the home team’s poor strategy.

*Psst! I have a small leaning towards Chennaiyin FC even though I prefer FC Goa.

**Oye Wenger! You need a defender and can’t find one. Take Jhingan and groom him why don’t you?



Kerala Blasters FC & Chennaiyin FC to Try To Return To Winning Ways

Today evening, Kerala Blasters FC meet Chennaiyin FC in what will be a southern derby for the Indian Super League. While there is no strong rivalry between the two teams (that requires a special event of some kind), the two teams are on the same side of the table.

The Story behind Kerala Blasters FC vs. Chennaiyin FC

Kerala Blasters FC vs. Chennaiyin FC

Kerala Blasters FC vs. Chennaiyin FC

There is another similarity between the two teams. Both teams had their unbeaten streaks broken in their last matches by teams that were, honestly, not expected to do it.

Kerala Blasters FC were shot down at home by the extremely impressive FC Goa while Chennaiyin FC were taught a harsh lesson by Northeast United FC in their travels. Kerala Blasters FC, before that loss, were on a 5 game unbeaten streak while Chennaiyin FC were on a 7 game unbeaten streak.

How teams react right after such a significant loss often shows their mettle and these two teams are both coming off from sorry losses. This game is where the two teams get a chance to get their confidence back.

Expect a Slow Start and a Fiery Finish

You should expect both teams to start slightly tentatively because they wouldn’t want a repeat of what happened last time out. I’m afraid they’ll try to avoid losing first before winning. The situation that both the teams are in, a single point shouldn’t be that bad for them.

It will give them a chance to gain some confidence back without risking too much. A single point will re-establish Chennaiyin FC’s 3 point lead at the top of the table especially since all that Atletico De Kolkata could do in their last game was draw.

For Kerala Blasters FC, a single point would mean that they will go above FC Goa, 3 points clear of Delhi Dynamos FC in 5th. I think the onus has to be on Kerala Blasters FC to make something happen because a single point is the most dangerous for them.

Cedric Hengbart, Kerala Blasters FC

Cedric Hengbart, Kerala Blasters FC

For instance, they may reach 3rd position in the table with a point but the teams behind them will have a game in hand.

In fact, the worst case scenario for Kerala Blasters is that they get a single point but find themselves in 7th position once this round of matches has passed.

Every team till the 7th position in the league will have a chance to overtake Kerala Blasters FC if they don’t win today.

I expect the first few minutes to be all about probing, measuring, and assessing the opponent. Second half would be where both the teams may try to go for the kill. Chennaiyin FC should be more content to sit back and counter while Kerala Blasters FC will lead the way in the second half.

They could play right into the hands of Chennaiyin FC team because they are very good with their counterattacks.

How the Two Teams Matchup

This one will be a very interesting tactical game between two recently, semi-retired legends of football. Here’s why.

  • Kerala Blasters FC are much more accomplished in defence while Chennaiyin FC is much more accomplished in attack.
  • Kerala Blasters FC need a win more than Chennaiyin FC but neither team can afford to lose.
  • So, Kerala Blasters FC may attack more in the second half while Chennaiyin FC will have to defend well while trying to counter.
  • Since the Blasters are more about defence, they’ll have to move out of their comfort zone and figure out how to attack and break down Chennaiyin’s defence.
  • Since Chennaiyin is more about attack, they’ll also have to move out of their comfort zone and figure out how to thwart Kerala’s attacking strategy.

You’ll get to see new sides of both teams in this game, that’s for sure. There is also the matter of Kerala Blasters FC having a very vocal home support on their side. I think that may turn out to be the big difference.

Kerala Blasters FC should start their attacking key player Iain Hume who can make a world of difference to their gameplay. It’ll also be interesting to see who David James chooses to partner Cedric Hengbart with in the centre of defence. Will it be Gurwinder Singh or Colin Falvey? My money is on Falvey.

Alessandro Nesta, Chennaiyin FC

Alessandro Nesta, Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC’s attack is seriously stunted right now. They neither have Elano nor Mendoza. Bruno Pelissari, in the last match, was strangely impetuous when his team wasn’t dominating. Temperament may be an issue with him.

Jeje Lalpekhlua is a highly reputed player but he couldn’t do much in the last game either. He does have a good engine though. These two will be Chennaiyin FC’s main attackers. It might be a blessing in disguise that they have to defend first.

Don’t expect to see Alessandro Nesta play because I believe he’s expected to join his new team from the next game onwards.

Senior Management Speak…

Marco Materazzi, Chennaiyin FC

Marco Materazzi, Chennaiyin FC

Marco Materazzi and David James both met reporters in their pre-game press conferences. Both had words of encouragement for their teams.

Marco Materazzi put up a strong and resilient front for his team when he said that even though they lost their last away game badly, they should not be scared of the next one. There are hints in his words that he won’t change the way Chennaiyin FC will play.

If that happens, everything I said above can be set aside. However, Materazzi, till now, has proven to be a shrewd manager who changes the way his team plays according to the situation and the opponent. I do have a feeling that he is dissembling here.

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

David James, on the other hand, has been more of a heart on his sleeve type of manager. He accepted that this game will be a challenge for his team. I think he knows that they need to win and, for that, they need to attack.

I think he knows his team won’t all be comfortable with attacking so much. He also knows the kind of difference the crowd can make so he called out to them to continue their unbelievable support for his players.

This is also the first time James has had his whole team to work with. This should show us what his preferred 11 looks like especially since he’ll have to balance defence with attack.

If you are a tactical kind of football fan, make sure that you watch this one which is shaping up to be like a battle between Vishwanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen. The newer fans of football should also watch this one because they’ll see tactics and excitement both in one sitting. A highly recommended match.



FC Pune City vs. Atletico De Kolkata: Two Out of Form Teams Lock Horns

The Indian Super League has dished out so many surprises that only a brave man will continue to predict the outcomes of the games. It’s a good thing that gambling is illegal in the country or the first season of the high profile league would’ve seen countless daddies, brothers, and boyfriends ruin themselves with their bets.

The Scenario for FC Pune City

FC Pune City vs. Atletico De Kolkata

FC Pune City vs. Atletico De Kolkata

When FC Pune City met Atletico De Kolkata last time, they beat them silly and claimed the 3rd spot in the league. Four games and zero wins later, if they beat Kolkata again then they can claim the 4th spot in the league.

A loss wouldn’t be the end of the world for FC Pune City, though. The reason for this is that even if they lose, they’ll still be 2 points off the 4th qualifying spot.

A loss will cause two different types of problems for them. The first will come in the form of brittle confidence being shaken even further – 5 games without a win. The second will be their goal difference. FC Pune City have the second worst GD in the league and only the mauling of Mumbai City FC at the hands of Delhi Dynamos FC prevents them from being the worst. Pune’s GD is -5. A loss will make it even worse.

You can rest assured that GD will have a role to play when the last round of matches roll around the corner. There will be teams who will need to not only win but win by certain goal margins to cement their positions for the knockout round. FC Pune City will find themselves in real trouble then if they don’t start fixing their GD now.

They will have Kostas Katsouranis and David Trezeguet to rely upon but I don’t know the status of Davide Colomba who has proven crucial to their fortunes. If he doesn’t play then you can rest assured that Pune will miss him dearly.

Atletico De Kolkata’s Deceptive Position Vis-À-Vis Form

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

Atletico De Kolkata, themselves, are in dire straits. While their position in the Indian Super League (2nd) doesn’t really show it, they’ve actually won only once in their last 6 matches and even that win was a struggle for them.

In fact, they beat Northeast United FC by a single goal margin probably because Northeast United couldn’t score a goal at that time even if their lives depended on it.

Unlike a few matches ago, Kolkata can no longer take their qualifying for granted because if they lose today then there are four teams waiting to overtake them.

Effectively, hypothetically, a loss for Atletico De Kolkata could see them face their next opponents in danger of dropping to 5th or 6th position.

A win would mean a lot for Atletico De Kolkata. First and foremost, they’ll regain their confidence that they are the supreme team in the league which has been seriously dented these last few matches. Secondly, they have a chance to reclaim the top spot in the league with Chennaiyin FC floundering against Northeast United FC in their last outing.

If Atletico De Kolkata can win with a margin of 2 or more goals then they can topple Chennaiyin from the summit on GD. In such a scenario, both teams will be on 16 points but Kolkata will have a better GD.

Atletico De Kolkata will have all their key players available in the form of Luis Garcia, Fikru Teferra Lemessa, Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey (Josemi), and Borja Fernandez so should ideally be able to turn on the magic on demand.

FC Pune’s Franco Colomba Explains Poor Form

Franco Colomba, FC Pune City

Franco Colomba, FC Pune City

In his pre-game press conference, Franco Colomba touched upon the competitiveness of ISL and how teams have been behaving like yoyos on strings in the table.

There has been constant shuffling of the pack which is partly due to the fact that there are only 8 teams in the league but also because they are all at the same level.

They will gradually sort themselves out in terms of consistency and quality. He also tried to explain his team’s poor performance on the fact that their last 3 games were on the road. This is what he said

This is football, and it’s not possible to foresee what can happen. My team played three matches away against opponents who were in good form and it was difficult, but now, we have three matches at home, and we want to take advantage of that and go higher in the league table.

That’s a good strategy from Colomba but while it may make the journos and his players feel better, it doesn’t bear up against closer scrutiny. Take for example the fact that FC Pune City beat Atletico De Kolkata, league leaders at the time, on their home turf! Similarly, it’s not like FC Pune City hasn’t lost at home either. They’ve lost to Kerala Blasters FC and drawn a number of games at home too.

Atletico De Kolkata Management Keeping Cards Close To Their Chests

Deshi Bhaktawer, Atletico De Kolkata

Deshi Bhaktawer, Atletico De Kolkata

While Franco Colomba was refreshingly open about his analysis, Atletico De Kolkata’s management was specifically vague about their comments. Their respective press conference was led by their Goalkeeping Coach, Deshi Bhaktawer.

He said that his team were looking to put in 120% in their game but he did specify that they’re not out to take revenge against FC Pune City.

This is another side of this upcoming game. When FC Pune City visited Atletico De Kolkata last, they defeated with a score line of 3 – 1. His exact comments:

What’s important is that we come here and give our 120 per cent. They are a good team, and we are well aware of that, but it’s not about revenge.

Even considering what Bhaktawer has said, I doubt Atletico De Kolkata don’t want revenge. They seem to me like a very proud team who would want to set the record straight against Pune. You should expect Atletico De Kolkata to be especially aggressive tomorrow even though some people are suggesting that they’ll play for one point.

Let’s see who wins out in this tag team match when Garcia, Josemi, and Fikru go up against Katsouranis, Trezeguet, and Dudu Omagbemi.