Chennaiyin FC find themselves at the bottom of the Indian Super League (ISL) table after losing both their opening fixtures without scoring a goal and conceding five in reply. 

Owen Coyle’s return hasn’t gone to plan for the Marina Machans so far but it’s still very early days in the season with plenty of opportunities to make amends. 

The two-time ISL Cup winners though face a tough task as league leaders Mohun Bagan Super Giant come calling in the next match and that could hardly be good news for the Coyle who is still grooming his team to function in his own way, especially considering the Chennai side has beaten the Kolkata giants just once in six attempts.

But, Chennaiyin FC have good reason to believe that things will turn in their favour when they play at home for the first time this season. Backed by a dedicated group of supporters, the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai has always lifted the home side and pushed them on to greater things. 

Their recent record on home soil will also give them encouragement. Chennaiyin FC are unbeaten in their last five home games and have emerged victorious in their last two games. In contrast, Juan Ferrando’s men have struggled on the road and are without a victory on their last six trips outside Kolkata. Although a new season could bring very different fortunes for both teams, Chennaiyin FC can draw some confidence from these records that remain fairly recent. 

Will Chennaiyin FC be late bloomers again? 

Chennaiyin FC are used to starting slowly in the ISL and this is the third occasion where they have lost both their opening two matches. Their fortunes in those two campaigns were of complete contrast as they won the ISL Cup in 2015 and finished bottom in 2018-19. However, the only other time they had failed to score in their first two matches, they went on to reach the ISL Cup final in 2019-20 under Coyle during his first spell. 

So the Scot has the managerial nous to turn things around very quickly and the Chennaiyin FC fans would be hoping the turnaround starts from Saturday. 

Better than what meets the eye

Taking a deeper look at Chennaiyin FC’s performances would suggest that the Marina Machans have been much better than what the table suggests, especially at the attacking end of the pitch. 

Coyle’s side rank second for touches inside the penalty area only behind Mumbai City FC and second for passes inside the opponent’s penalty area, only behind their visitors on Saturday. 

Chennaiyin FC are just lacking the final punch which is understandable considering the team is still new and developing an understanding among themselves, but the creativity is there and it’s a matter of time before the goals start to come. 

Rafael Crivellaro the most creative player in the team has been getting into areas where he could do some damage to the opponents. He has recorded 23 penalty box entries this season, the most by any player in the league this season. 

So, if Coyle’s men can keep finding him in these areas, his quality on the ball will soon tell. 

The defence is an area where Coyle needs his team to improve as only Punjab FC and Bengaluru FC have faced more shots on their goal than Chennaiyin FC and it’s a metric they will have to improve if they are to get the better of the in-form Mariners. 

Chennaiyin FC haven’t lived up to expectations in the last few ISL season and their start to ISL 2023-24 won’t get the fans on the edge of their seat, but home advantage could play a big factor in their season as it always has in campaigns Chennaiyin FC have done well. The evidence of which could come as early as Saturday.