ISL: Chennaiyin FC, Goa set to renew rivalry
Chennai: Chennaiyin FCs battles with FC Goa in the first three seasons have produced plenty of drama and excitement. Think of the Indian Super League (ISL) final in 2015 when Stiven Mendoza produced magical goals in the dying minutes of the match or the last clash between these two teams in Goa when nine goals were scored, including an incredible 95th-minute winner.
Those were the days when Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa couldn't see eye to eye, particularly with Zico and Marco Materazzi in the dugouts.
Things have changed now with new coaches and new teams, but fans would remain just as excited as the teams lock horns in their opening round encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here in the first clash on Sunday.
FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera was reminded about this simmering rivalry for the last three years but he instead chose to look at the future, rather than dwell on the past.
"I think to compare two players is very difficult; to compare two coaches is even more difficult. To compare two different teams, with two different coaches, there is no comparison. I think the past is the past, the present is today and future is what will come," Lobera said during the pre-match interaction with the media.
It's better for both teams to look ahead. While FC Goa finished at the bottom last season, Chennaiyin FC finished seventh in the eight-team league.
Chennaiyin now have John Gregory as their coach and the experienced coach remains confident that he can start another glorious chapter, starting with their home game against FC Goa.
"You are expected to win home games. If you can pick up points when you are on the road and win home games, you always have a chance at the title. We will have a pragmatic approach to the season," said Gregory.
Chennaiyin FC did well in pre-season, although the coach appeared worried that the international players didn't have enough time to train with the team.
India players like Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Germanpreet Singh were all part of the India starting eleven against Myanmar and may not be in the best shape for the opener.
"Jerry, Jeje, Germanpreet, they haven't had rest and have been playing continuously," said Gregory.
Jeje and Jerry are both expected to start while, Germanpreet will sit out injured. For FC Goa, Spanish striker Adrian Colunga has not made the trip to Chennai.