Chennai: Two games into the Indian Super League (ISL) season, Chennaiyin FC appeared to be on course to becoming a well-rounded unit. For a team assembled at the eleventh hour, two wins out of two seemed a bit rich. Only the much-fancied Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) boasted of a similar record.
However, it was quickly brought down to earth by an impressive Delhi Dynamos side last Saturday and, in the process, was asked some questions. The side will get an opportunity to answer them against Mumbai City FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Tuesday.
Of particular interest will be its set-piece defending, susceptibility to pace and energy on the counter and the ball distribution skills of its three-man defence, each of which came under the scanner against Delhi.
“The set-piece defending was not good,” said Chennaiyin FC assistant coach Vivek Nagul. “We went back to the drawing board and have discussed it. Hopefully, we won’t repeat the mistakes.”
Chennai has so far ridden on the exploits of three talismanic figures — Frenchman Bernard Mendy in defence, captain Bojan Djordjic as a deep-lying playmaker and the Brazilian marquee-signing Elano upfront.
Elano has, in fact, scored three of the team’s five goals and Djordjic has soldiered on remarkably despite being half-fit. The need is to find new stars to complement their efforts.
“We are not over-dependent on Elano,” said Nagul. “Bojan has indeed struggled with his fitness. So we need to take care of him. But, we have a good bench and others will step in.”
For Mumbai, it has been a topsy-turvy start. An emphatic 5-0 victory over FC Pune City was sandwiched between two dispiriting losses.
However, it will be bolstered by French striker Nicolas Anelka’s return from a three-match ban. “Anelka will play,” said coach Peter Reid.
“His training has been first class and he has been very professional.”
How Chennai will repel his attacks remains to be seen even as Nagul talked about “keeping more possession and over-loading the midfield.”
Mumbai has also been plagued by its lack of discipline on the field.
In its previous match against NorthEast United FC, it finished with nine men. “We have made silly fouls and it has cost us. Chennai has Elano whose dead-ball skills are top-notch. The key is to not concede (fouls),” he said.
Of additional concern is the lack of creativity in the final third.
Injury to marquee-signing Freddie Ljungberg, which has seen him play just 30 minutes so far, has certainly not helped while the spark has been missing in Andre Moritz’s absence.
“With a player of Moritz’s quality, you do miss him.
“But, sometimes we need to give credit to the opposition. And so far, we haven’t helped ourselves as well (with the fouls).”
On Tuesday, Mumbai can call upon a fully-fit Moritz, about whom Reid said he had no qualms about lasting 90 minutes. Midfielder Syed Rahim Nabi has also recovered sufficiently.
For Chennai, defender Abhishek Das will miss the game due to an injury he sustained against Kerala Blasters.