Kerala Blasters FC and high flying Chennaiyin FC meet at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Sunday on the back of heavy losses against FC Goa and NorthEast United FC respectively. They will both be keen to bounce back. Fourth placed Kerala will however hope to win this home match against the league leaders and avenge their first leg 2-1 defeat.
The visitors are the most attacking side in the league having scored a tournament high of 20 goals in comparison to the hosts’ eight. They did however come up blank against a spirited Highlanders. With more shots (154-128) and shots on goal (83-64), Chennaiyin will however back themselves to score again. From a defensive point of view however, the hosts are more dominant, having kept four clean sheets to their opponents’ two. The Kerala defensive unit has been chopped and changed with Gurwinder Singh and Colin Falvey alternatively partnering Cédric Hengbart in central defence. They however have more interceptions (301-299) and tackles (249-188) and will hope that these positive stats help them bounce back.
Form Guide (most recent matches first):
Kerala Blasters FC: LWWDD
Chennaiyin FC: LWWDD
The tenacious Canadian forward has proved his worth to the Kerala cause. His willingness to win the ball and move forward makes him a dangerous customer for Marco Materazzi’s side. Indian defender Dhanachandra Singh will have the responsibility to mark the wily forward. His strength and positioning will go a long way in preventing Hume from causing problems to his defence.
Ishfaq Ahmed vs Bruno Pelissari
The defensive midfielder was powerless against FC Goa’s attacking might as he had a day to forget in his last outing. He will want to put that behind him and make sure he puts in a good shift to stop Chennai’s attack from gathering momentum. With Elano out injured, Pelissari’s has filled his shoes and done exceptionally well – he’s even scored a goal. The Brazilian did not have the best outing against NorthEast United and will want to make amends against the Blasters.
Cédric Hengbart vs Jeje Lalpekhlua
French centre half Cédric Hengbart is an experienced professional who’s positional sense is second to none in the league. He’s been the rock at the back for the Kerala side and he is likely to come up against the versatile Mizo forward who has struck form off late in the tournament. Having scored the goal to take his side top of the league, Jeje will be looking to hit the right chords against the men from the backwaters.
Players to watch
Kerala Blasters FC
Sandesh Jhingan – The Indian full back has emerged as one of the top players in the tournament. His speed and willingness to tackle make him a valuable asset. His work rate is as good as the talent be possesses. He’s a dangerous player when on the attack and the Chennai back line will have to be wary of him.
Bernard Mendy – Having scored a spectacular bicycle kick in the previous encounter between the two sides, the French defender will hope to repeat the feat away from home. Mendy has the capability to make searing runs forward with the ball and is equally committed to the defensive cause. He can be difficult to contain if he gets going.