Chennaiyin, ATK clash in the battle of the champions

Two of the most successful teams in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) history will cross paths on Sunday when Chennaiyin FC host ATK at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. Both teams have lifted the title twice each and are the only clubs to have won the Hero ISL.

Despite their past record, both sides have somewhat struggled this season. While ATK are placed sixth in the table and are still in striking distance of a playoff spot, defending champions Chennaiyin are languishing in the eighth position with just five points from their nine matches. Three points in this match will be vital for both teams, but for different reasons. For Chennaiyin, it will keep their chances of a top-four spot alive, at least mathematically. On the other hand, ATK will be desperate for a win to stay on the heels of the top four, who seem to be breaking away from the chasing pack of late.

Chennaiyin FC

It has been a horrid season for the defending champions, who have lost six, drawn two and won just one in their nine outings so far. The biggest issue for John Gregory's men have been a misfiring forward line. The three Chennaiyin forwards, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Carlos Salom and Mohammed Rafi, have scored just one goal between themselves this season. Even Chennaiyin's defenders have had better luck in front of the opposition goal than their forwards, with three goals and an assist.

Despite retaining the core of their title-winning side from last season, Chennaiyin have struggled this time around and the team has looked disjointed at times. With any realistic chances of a top-four finish slipping away fast, it will be interesting to see if Chenaiyin can get their act together and mount a late charge. But it needs to start on Sunday against ATK, or else it just maybe a little too late for the Marina Machans to salvage anything from the season.

Here’s a look at Chennaiyin’s current season in numbers:

ATK

This season, Steve Coppell's ATK have been mediocre at best. Like their opponents, ATK's biggest worry has been in their attacking players, who have failed to deliver the goals. The team has only managed to find the net on seven occasions in their nine matches so far, the joint-lowest tally this season alongside Mumbai City FC. To be fair, the Kolkata-based side have had their fair share of setbacks owing to injuries. The team lost star striker Kalu Uche to a muscle injury earlier this season and his replacement Emiliano Alfaro was sidelined with an Achilles injury without even playing a single minute. Everton Santos and Balwant Singh have had very little joy going forward, while new signing Eli Babalj only has 28 minutes of Hero ISL football under his belt. Captain Manuel Lanzarote has been the most influential player for ATK in the opposition third, but even he has looked a mere shadow of his former self.

A big boost for Coppell going into the match against Chennaiyin will be the upturn in the form of his defence. After failing to register a single clean sheet in their first six matches, the ATK defence stepped up in the last three outings and haven't conceded a single goal. The ploy to bring in Andre Bikey as John Johnson's centre-back partner and deploying Gerson Vieira as a defensive midfielder has paid off for Coppell. Vieira will, however, be without his midfield partner Pronay Halder on Sunday owing to a suspension.

Here’s a look at ATK’s current season in numbers:

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:

CHENNAIYIN FC: Karanjit Singh (GK), Inigo Calderon, Eli Sabia, Mailson Alves (C), Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anirudh Thapa, Germanpreet Singh, Francisco Fernandes, Raphael Augusto, Gregory Nelson, Jeje Lalpekhlua

ATK: Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), Ankit Mukherjee, John Johnson, Andre Bikey, Ricky Lallawmawma, Gerson Vieira, Hitesh Sharma, Komal Thatal, Manuel Lanzarote, Everton Santos, Balwant Singh

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Chennaiyin have conceded eight goals in their last five matches.
  • ATK have kept clean sheets in their last three matches.
  • ATK have scored the seven goals this season – the joint-lowest by any team alongside Mumbai City FC.

FANSPEAK

Which defender will have the biggest impact?

  • Mailson Alves
  • John Johnson

Catch the match live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV from 7:30 PM.

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