Talking Point: Can Chennaiyin punish Kerala Blasters’ feeble defence?

Kerala Blasters FC take on Chennaiyin FC in Match 102 of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Sunday. The Blasters suffered their worst defeat of the season when they lost 4-0 against Hyderabad FC in their last match. Chennaiyin, meanwhile, have shown improvement in their attacking performances of late, with five goals in their last two matches. Be that as it may, both teams are out the semis reckoning and there is nothing else to play for but pride on Sunday. Here ahead of the encounter, we take a look at some of the talking points that could prove decisive.  

Can Ishfaq Ahmed lead Kerala Blasters to victory?

Following their heavy 4-0 loss to Hyderabad FC in the last match, Kerala Blasters FC announced that they had parted ways with head coach Kibu Vicuna and Ishfaq Ahmed had been promoted to the head coach role on an interim basis. With Kerala Blasters playing Chennaiyin on Sunday and then NorthEast United FC next week, the Blasters will hope for two wins to end their season on a high. Under Vicuna, the Blasters had won just three matches, lost eight and drew seven and Ahmed will hope he does better than his predecessor in terms of win percentage. 

Chhangte at last back on track

India international Lallianzuala Chhangte has not had the best of seasons with the Marina Machans with just four goals and an assist to show for his effort so far this season. But with three goals in his last two matches -- one against FC Goa and two against NorthEast United FC in their last game --- Chhangte seems to be returning to his former self. Against the Highlanders, the pacey winger was the best player on the pitch, scoring the first goal and then winning the penalty which was converted by Manuel Lanzarote for Chennaiyin’s second goal. Chhangte also scored the third goal, which almost guaranteed a win for his team before the Highlanders grabbed a late equaliser.

Kerala’s defence has haunted them this season

The Blasters have not fielded a settled backline, and although their attacking returns have been good, their defensive woes have cost them a lot of points this season. They have conceded 33 goals this season and kept only three clean sheets. Twenty-two of these have come in the second half, and 13 goals while defending set-pieces. This is surprising considering that their goalkeeper Albino Gomes has been in fine form. He has 56 saves, two fewer than Odisha FC’s Arshdeep Singh who leads the list in this aspect. Interim head coach Ahmed will need his defence to perform to have any chance against Chennaiyin who are capable of scoring many goals on their day against any opposition.

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