Chennaiyin FC are set to face Kerala Blasters FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Monday. The Marina Machans are just below the final playoff spot, while their next opponents are a win away from launching themselves into third place. This game will also be a reunion of sorts for head coaches Thomas Brdaric and Ivan Vukomanovic, who have previously faced each other as players in the Rhine Derby in Germany.

Last week, a rampant Chennaiyin FC scored seven goals against NorthEast United FC in Guwahati. Nasser El Khayati, who is the league’s leading goalscorer this season, bagged a hat-trick and went on to secure two assists as well. He now boasts a stellar record of eleven goal contributions in just six games.

Chennaiyin FC are expected to carry the same form into this game. Brdaric’s only concern will be Chennaiyin FC’s home form - they have played five games at the Marina Arena so far but have only managed one win. (Club statistics)

“We respect their results and have to be on guard, keep our pressing tight and not allow them spaces. Our aim is to exploit the mistakes they make. Otherwise, our preparation this week has been done keeping them in mind, and we have our strengths,” said Brdaric. “The team is in good shape and surrounded by a very good atmosphere. We have to replicate our preparation performance in the derby. I can’t wait to play tomorrow,” he added.

Kerala Blasters are on their best ever run in the Hero ISL. They have won their last five matches and kept three clean sheets in the process. Last week, the Blasters edged past Bengaluru FC in a five-goal thriller. Dimitrios Diamantakos found the back of the net for the fifth game in a row and Apostolos Giannou was also on target.

Defender Marko Leskovic has been solid at the back for Kerala Blasters and he, too, chipped in with a goal against the Blues last week. The defender has made the most number of successful interceptions in the league so far. The Blasters will bank on their away form, having won three out of four games on the road. (Club statistics)

“As a coach, you can never let records keep your mind busy. Emotions aside, you always think about preparation for upcoming games,” said Vukomanovic. “We are in a period where we need to collect points because we want to be one of the best teams in the playoff. Kerala Blasters has always been a special club in Indian football. Everybody wants to be the best against Kerala Blasters, and we accept it,” he added.

These sides have met 18 times in the Hero ISL. Seven of these meetings have ended in draws. The Marina Machans have registered six wins, while the Blasters have won five. Last season, Kerala Blasters did the double over Chennaiyin FC. (Hero ISL standings)