A Super Cup title had eluded them, Chennaiyin FC would look to regroup themselves when they square off against Nepalese side Manang Marshyangdi in their second group match of the AFC Cup in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Chennaiyin won the 2017-18 Indian Super League but had a disastrous outing in the just-concluded season as they finished at the bottom of the table. They redeemed themselves a bit by finishing runners-up in the Super Cup.
The Chennai-based side lost 1-2 to FC Goa in the Super Cup final on April 13 but they would look to forget that disappointment and score their maiden win in the AFC Cup, against the Nepal league champions, at the TransStadia Arena here. John Gregory’s side needs a win on Wednesday, given that it played out a goalless draw against its Indian counterpart Minerva Punjab in its opening AFC Cup Group E match on April 3 at the same TransStadia Arena, which serves as the club’s home venue.
Chennaiyin has a fully fit squad available with Jerry Lalrinzuala and Dhanpal Ganesh getting some minutes during the Super Cup after being injured for the majority of the ISL campaign. Anirudh Thapa has stamped his class in midfield during the last few games while Mailson Alves has been impressive at the back. Jeje Lalpekhlua and C K Vineeth will be expected to form the strike duo upfront.
“We obviously come into this game a bit disappointed, after the Super Cup final defeat, but I can assure you we are fully focused on the AFC Cup game against Manang Marshyangdi. It is a huge occasion to be in the AFC Cup, for Chennai and the country. It will be a tough game, but we are more than ready,” Gregory said at the pre-match press conference.
“The AFC Cup has inspired us, it is a great platform to be participating at. We feel honored and we want to do as well as we can. We would like to aim at going as far as possible. The players are all really focused. It has given us a huge opportunity to restore some pride after what has been a disappointing league season,” he added.
Talking about the drawn match against Minerva, he said, “We had a lot of opportunities to score goals and win the game. Nevertheless, we kept a clean sheet, which is great to build on.” “Defensively, we have been more compact and tough to break down. It is pleasing to see that improvement. But this competition now is all about winning games, more importantly.” He said he would pick a team that can score goals, win matches and is more offensive.
Manang Marshyangdi Club, who are the first club to represent Nepal in the group stage of the AFC Cup, lost 0-1 against Abahani Limited Dhaka in their group opener. They, however, can take pride in the way they battled it out against the Bangladeshi outfit that scored the winner against the run of play.
Chennaiyin defenders will have to be wary of Nigerian forward duo of Oluwaunmi Somide and Afeez Olawale Oladipo as they have been among goals. Bishal Rai and Anjan Bista are the other two key players for the Nepalese side.
The Manang defense will have an Indian in Muhammed Asif who will be playing against a club from his country.