Talking Point: Can Chennaiyin FC spoil NorthEast United’s party?
Match 98 of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 will see Chennaiyin FC face off against NorthEast United FC at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Thursday. The Highlanders and the Marina Machans played out a goalless draw in the reverse fixture earlier in the season but since then NorthEast United, despite witnessing a brief low, have gone on to challenge for a top-four spot. Chennaiyin, however, have been sub-par in their performances this season, and find themselves on 8th in the standings and consequently out of semis contention. Ahead of the encounter, let’s take a look at some of the factors that could prove decisive in terms of who comes out on top.
Highlanders need to win to boost top-four hopes
NorthEast United have been in the reckoning for a top-four spot all the more ever since the arrival of interim head coach Khalid Jamil. Playing the first of their final three matches against Chennaiyin, the Highlanders will need to secure a win on Thursday to move closer to their confirmation in the semi-finals. One of their main competitors, Hyderabad FC secured an important 4-0 win over Kerala Blasters FC on Tuesday night and with the fight for the final two spots in the top-four really heating up, expect the Highlanders to leave no stone unturned.
Chennaiyin play for pride
The Marina Machans displayed some of their true potential in their last match against FC Goa but with now just two matches remaining, they have no hopes of finishing in the top four. While their defence has been consistent and solid this season, their attack has been questionable on multiple occasions. Lallianzuala Chhangte and Jakub Sylvestr returned to scoring in their last match against FC Goa but it was a little too late for the Marina Machans in the campaign. However, there is no denying they have quality and can definitely spoil the Highlanders’ party.
NorthEast United need to defend better
Although there is no doubt as regards the ability of their attacking unit heading into a crucial run of fixtures, the Highlanders will need to be a little careful in the defensive department. They have only four clean sheets this season, and just one in their last 11 matches. They have not been helped by recurrent injuries to their foreign defensive pairing of Benjamin Lambot and Dylan Fox either. With the fight for the third and fourth spots heating up, goal difference can come into play at some point, and conceding goals will not help their cause at all. The highlanders will do well to remember that.