Season Preview: Two-time Hero ISL winners, Chennaiyin FC ready to up the ante
Chennaiyin FC have won the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) trophy on two occasions, and were extremely close to sealing a record third trophy last season before losing to eventual champions ATK FC in the final. A lot has changed since, with Owen Coyle joining rivals Jamshedpur FC and taking last season’s Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis along with him. But with a relatively strong core of Indians in their team, the Marina Machans are still a force to reckon with.
Upon his appointment to the club, Csaba Laszlo was tasked with replacing a number of key players who had left the club, especially among their foreign contingent. However, Chennaiyin did manage to tie down their Indian players for the upcoming season as well as two of their best foreigners from last season. This should prove to be a massive boost for the side.
Retaining their Brazilian midfielder Rafael Crivellaro was important for the Marina Machans. With seven goals and eight assists, Crivellaro was a revelation for his side after being given a free attacking role by Coyle last season. His presence in the side will also allow Lallianzuala Chhangte to be more expressive while attacking, and with Chhangte having the most shots on goal by an Indian player last season, his best is surely yet to come.
To overcome the loss of Valskis, Laszlo has signed an experienced frontline in the form of Esmael Goncalves and Jakub Sylvestr. It won’t be surprising to see if Crivellaro is made to slot in behind the striker again, with that position proving very fruitful for the Brazilian playmaker last season.
Joining Crivellaro will be his compatriot and seasoned Hero ISL campaigner, Memo Moura. Memo will be playing his fifth season in India. Joining from Jamshedpur FC, Moura has plenty of experience in the middle of the park, and will look to partner Anirudh Thapa, Germanpreet Singh and Edwin Vanspaul.
Another major player for Chennaiyin this season will be the Brazilian defender Eli Sabia. The centre-back paired up with Lucian Goian last season, and this time round the task will be cut out for him a little in view of Goian having left the club. Sabia will be joined by Enes Sipovic, while the defensive wings will be covered by Reagan Singh and Jerry Lalrinzuala, with the latter slowly establishing himself as a fan favourite.
Overall, the Chennaiyin FC squad looks like a balanced unit, with an able backup for every position. Lazslo has made his intentions of playing an expressive brand of football quite clear and with a majority of the club’s best players from last season still around, a lot can be expected from the two-time Hero ISL champions.
Best Finish: Hero ISL champions in 2015 and 2017-18
Goalkeepers: Revanth BY, Vishal Kaith, Karanjit Singh, Samik Mitra.
Defenders: Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Enes Sipovic, Reagan Singh, Eli Sabia, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Remi, Balaji Ganesan, Aqib Nawab, Deepak Tangri
Midfielders: Fatkhulo Fatkhuloev, Thoi Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Memo Moura, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rafael Crivellaro, Abhijit Sarkar, Pandiyan Sinivasan, Germanpreet Singh, Dhanpal Ganesh, Edwin Vanspaul.
Forwards: Jakub Sylvestr, Aman Chetri, Rahim Ali, Esmael Goncalves.
Vs Jamshedpur FC - November 24
Vs Kerala Blasters FC - November 29
Vs Bengaluru FC - December 4
Vs Mumbai City FC - December 9
Vs NorthEast United FC - December 13
Vs FC Goa - December 19
Vs SC East Bengal - December 26
Vs ATK Mohun Bagan - December 29
Vs Hyderabad FC - January 4
Vs Odisha FC - January 10
*Fixtures for Chennaiyin FC announced as of now