At long last, it’s arrived! The day that every club in the ISL dreams about when the season begins, yet only two teams can ever make it and this time we’ve got a previous champion in Chennaiyin and the new kids on the block Bengaluru in the other corner. Steve is taking care of the preview for the game, so I’m going to run you through the pre-match press conferences that both John Gregory and Albert Roca have partaken in.
We’ll begin with Roca seeing as his side are technically the home side for this play-off final and rightly so as they have been the most consistent side throughout the campaign in what was their debut season. The former El Salvador manager started by saying:
“I am very happy for the franchise, for the city to be in the final. It is so important for everybody concerned. It is amazing for sure. From the beginning, we knew how difficult it would be to be here.
I think we started in August, before any other team because we had to play in the AFC Cup. There is one more step to go. Right now, I am very very happy for the staff and the players. Also for the fans, they have always been behind us to support throughout the season.”
Could This Be The Start Of The Roca Dynasty?
While it may have been their debut season in the ISL, what can’t be ignored is that the core of their squad has been kept together as they transitioned across from the I-League flawlessly. A lot of that is down to Roca and they are going down the same road again as they are tying down key players to the club as Roca looks to build an Indian legacy. Albert (underrated name, by the way) paid tribute to the opposing side;
“Chennaiyin are a very big team, they have shown a lot of talent. Sure, it won’t be easy but we are prepared for the challenge.
It is going to be a tight game. Little details can make the difference. We have to keep in control our emotions. I don’t expect an easy game, we have to score one more goal than them.”
Both sides have beaten each other this season and it only seems fair that it is 1st versus 2nd in the final, which way it’ll go is anyone’s guess. Roca stated that he was chuffed with the work that his team have put in throughout the duration of the campaign;
“I am very glad about the effort that the players put in. They never lost the concentration and we have been able to be in our regular shape all through the season.
As long as you have the players to do the job that we have to do, there much more possibilities to succeed. At the beginning of this season, it wasn’t easy. (But) Whenever there are changes in the team (personnel), we need to try and get them to adapt to the team (system) quickly.”
Jeje Is Worth So Much More Than Goals
They’re now fifteen games unbeaten in all competitions and are the favourites going into today’s game, however, the favourites don’t always come out on top as Bengaluru found out when they last lost, against then basement side, Delhi Dynamos. That was all we had from the Bengaluru boss, what I would give to be a fly on the wall when he gives his teamtalk tomorrow.
On the other side, John Gregory fielded a question about top scorer Jeje, to begin with and as he explained, the Indian’s play is about much more than just simple goals…
“Jeje’s game is more than just scoring goals. He has contributed in so many ways. Jeje has played for us this season when we have only provided him with a couple of chances He works tirelessly for the team. In that respect, he never goes missing in matches. He is our first line of defence as well.
His all-round the game the other night was superb from start to finish. He going to be a big danger tomorrow (Saturday), his confidence is very high. He is going to come up with the goods again. For a striker, lack of goals is always difficult. The team got the results, we have a lot of good players. Like the Goa game in the first leg, we scored a goal. This is about teamwork”
It’s a good job it’s about more than just goals because Jeje hadn’t scored in eight prior to bagging a brace against FC Goa in the second leg. He only needs four to catch Chhetri in the race to be the top Indian goalscorer for the season. Only four. You may mock me, but stranger things have happened.
Both Sides Have Taken Points Off Each Other
Gregory was also keen to point out that they’ve beaten Bengaluru in their own backyard once already this season and he’s hoping for more of the same,
“The fact that we have come here and won gives us great confidence. We have been here before, That was my first time in the stadium. So I will know what to expect tomorrow. A very partisan crowd in there tomorrow as well.
It gives a much better feeling knowing we have won there before. We are not the only team who have won there as well so we know they are not infallible. We have the utmost respect for them for what they have done this season, but we don’t fear anybody.”
When Chennaiyin faced FC Goa, it was all about the threat of Coro from the opposition and this time is no different as Bengaluru have an in-form Sunil Chhetri amongst their ranks; Gregory was asked his thoughts on the ‘Indian Prince’ and whether he thought he was going to be a threat:
“He (Sunil Chhetri) scored all the goals in the semi-finals the other night, that answers your question. Between him and Miku, they scored 27 goals. Very similar to Goa’s, (Ferran) Corominas and (Manuel) Lanzarote. If we keep those two (Miku and Chhetri) quiet, we might have a chance to win the game. That will be a hard task I know.”
Panenka Please, Chhetri
Very valid point. No one in the prediction league thought that Chennaiyin would win let alone in the manner that they did, so maybe Gregory’s side can upset the odds. He finished his pre-match duties by suggesting the game may well be decided by a set piece,
“If you do it (set-piece) right, you either don’t concede goals or you score. They are important, we do work hard on the game. And Bengaluru, seem to come up with something new every game. They rarely repeat their set pieces. Albert (Roca) I know works hard on that side of the game. If Sunil (Chhetri) takes a Panenka, I will be after him (laughs).”
He is, of course, referring to Chhetri’s cheeky penalty in Bengaluru’s victorious second-leg against Pune. If I was Chhetri, I’d definitely do it now, just to see what happens. One would have to admit, if the game got abandoned due to Gregory chasing Chhetri with a corner flag, it would probably be the most suitable ending to what has been a memorable ISL season.
Until next time.