Pune travel to Chennai in a blockbuster clash which will see the winner move to the top of the table. Gregory’s Chennaiyin are unbeaten at home in four, only losing to FC Goa on the opening day of the season where Gregory was still experimenting and by his own admission, got it wrong. Pune are unbeaten away from home this season and sit top of the away table with ten points from a possible twelve. It will undoubtedly be a thrilling encounter.
Last time out…
Chennaiyin were denied by a last-gasp Guyon Fernandez goal when Delhi travelled to Chennai after a double from the in-form Jeje put them in the lead. Ngaihte headed home midway through the first half as he was left completely alone in the penalty area and he headed home, it was that bad that if a bag was unattended like Ngaihte was in an airport, it would have been reported to a member of staff. Delhi repaid the favour before the break with some slack defending of their own as a beautiful ball from Mihelic was met sweetly by Jeje to make it honours even at the interval.
It didn’t take long for Jeje to get going again in the second half as a smart turn and finish meant that he was out on his own as the top Indian goalscorer. After that, there were chances squandered at both ends as the game seemed to be fizzling out and ending in an unsurprising home win for Chennaiyin but then Fernandez had the last laugh as he was in the right place at the right time to draw level at the death and on the pattern of play, it was the least they deserved.
Pune were left to rue their wastefulness in front of goal as their game against Kerala Blasters really was a game of two halves. The first half was all about Popovic’s side as they looked the more organised, better drilled and ultimately the better team in general but Kerala’s keeper, Chowdhury, certainly earnt his money. Marcelinho was the one who gave them the goal after he played a pinpoint one-two with Ashique and curled the ball past Kerala’s keeper.
Sifneos was the man who drew Kerala level after the break as you can only imagine what David James said to them at halftime. I think hairdryer would be an understatement. The way you have to look at it though is whatever he said, it worked because Pune went from having eleven shots in the first half to one in the second and when the ‘Blasters’ levelled with just under twenty minutes left on the clock, there was only going to be one winner but Pune held strong and kept them at bay.
Both managers are banned for this game so we have to make do with the assistants this time! First up is Chennaiyin assistant is Sabir Pasha who has probably cursed his team…
“It (late goals) won’t happen again. The way we conceded goals hurts us. Like I said, it was as a result of losing focus,”
Pasha is pleased to have Sereno back:
“They will come hard at us. So it is good that we have Sereno coming back. It will be a good contest between their attack and our defence.”
He also is more than aware that just because Marcelinho is absent, it doesn’t mean they’ll be lacking in the attack department:
“Marcelinho is a good player but unfortunately, he is not playing. They have other players who can step up and deliver in his absence.”
Sabir closed off by saying the table means very little at present:
“The points table doesn’t say anything. We need to take each game as it comes,”
Vladica Grujic was the man standing in for Popovic and he started by saying their team isn’t all about Marcelinho:
“If we cannot play without a player, it means we are not a proper team. Marcelinho is a strong player but we want to do our best. Diego (Carlos) will play instead of Marcelinho tomorrow.”
The Serbian also made it very clear that his side are aware of the importance of the games at this stage;
“It is very important to win games at this stage. Everybody knows how we play football – we play with possession and are focused on our attack.”
He also indicated that its very much all to play for:
“Any team can beat another team in this league. It depends on the performance of the day.”
Grujic ended the conference by dismissing the fact Pune are yet to beat Chennaiyin as he said:
“I don’t think so (that such a statistic matters). This is a new team. Players from last season are not here. It is just a piece of statistic. We will try to change this piece of stat.”
The game itself…
Whilst this game is very hard to call in terms of a result, one thing that can be guaranteed is goals because on average this season, Chennaiyin’s home games have produced 3.8 goals a game and Pune’s away games have given us 2.5 goals per game. When It’s 0-0 I’ll apologise.
When the teams met in Pune in early December, Chennaiyin came away with the spoils in a game that was very even in terms of possession but Chennaiyin created more chances and decisively, made their possession count. Sereno rose highest to score from a corner in the last ten minutes of the game after Kaith had kept Pune in the game prior to that, unfortunately, there was nothing he could do to stop the header going past him.
It will be a completely different ball game in Chennai as you can imagine the game being a lot more open and the score could be anything from 1-0 again to 5-4 and with the winner taking top spot, all is to play for. One of the big misses for Pune will be Marcelinho who is suspended for the clash and Chennaiyin welcome back the matchwinner from the last encounter, Sereno after a suspension of his own.
Ones to watch…
Jeje – He found his shooting boots the game after the two sides met last time around so Pune will have to be at their best to stop Jeje, who has six goals in as many appearances. One of the things that makes him so dangerous is that he can make a goal out of nothing, he can score with his head, he can do practically anything so maybe the best thing to do will be to man mark him to keep him quiet.
Marcos Tebar – I’ll level with you all, if Marcelinho was fit, I would have picked him but in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t because Tebar has some incredibly good stats. The man who sits in front of the back four with Adil Khan has started every game this season and it’s easy to see why he was once on the books of Real Madrid as his pass success rate throughout this season so far currently sits at 81% which isn’t bad going at all. To prove he doesn’t only get involved in the passing side of things, he also makes a tackle every twenty-three minutes which is very good for a team that tends to have more of the ball. Lynchpin.
One more thing…
All things considered, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing over 2.5 goals. It hasn’t been priced up at the time of writing, but be sure to fill yer boots.