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
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.
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.
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 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, 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.