Chennaiyin FC head coach looking forward to crunch game

Marco Materazzi

The prospect of a top of the table clash against league leaders Atlético de Kolkata has Chennaiyin FC player-head coach Marco Materazzi visibly excited. A Chennaiyin win would see them leapfrog their visitors and take over first place in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) standings.

“Atlético de Kolkata are a very good team,” Materazzi remarked during a media interaction here in Chennai on the eve of the match. “They are a good squad, and they are on the top (of the table).” 

The FIFA World Cup winner with Italy in 2006 was unwilling to call the absence of Kolkata striker Fikru Lamessa, who is suspended, an advantage for his side. Materazzi was well aware of the depth and talent in the opposition squad even with Fikru’s unavailability. “Fikru cannot play because he is suspended, but this is not better for my team,” the Inter Milan legend said.

Kolkata marquee player Luis García will ensure that whichever striker replaces Fikru will get plenty of chances to score, and Materazzi was quick to point out the danger that the Spanish playmaker poses. “Luis is a very strong player. We have to stop him,” Materazzi asserted. However, he gave no hints as to whether his plan for stopping García included playing himself in the defensive midfield role he adopted to great effect, on his playing debut no less, to stymie Nicolas Anelka during his side’s 5-1 win over Mumbai City FC in Chennai’s last game.

Despite that crushing win, Materazzi’s side has gained a reputation for playing defensively and attacking on the counter. However, the Italian was adamant that this was not the case. “We could score ten goals tomorrow. It is not just counter-attacking football,” Materazzi insisted. “We have a strategy in mind and we score. When we score, I am very happy.”

Materazzi was confident that the quality in his squad would shine in this crunch game against Kolkata. “We can definitely win tomorrow. “We won against Mumbai, and, like the last game, we have the attitude to win,” Materazzi emphasised. “We will put the same attitude and we can win.”

The manager also highlighted the talented Indian players at his disposal, one of whom, forward Jeje Lalpekhlua,also attended the press conference. Jeje was quick to emphasise the significance of the fixture against Kolkata. “This is a very important match for us. We have to take three points,” the Mizo striker said.

Jeje shared his manager’s confidence that Chennai could get the job done. “We have to stick to the gameplan and we can win the game,” he asserted. “We had some lows against Delhi Dynamos FC (Chennai lost 4-1 in the national capital) but we dug in and won against Mumbai City. This will give us immense confidence ahead of the Kolkata game.”

 Jeje also spoke of the impact players such as Elano and manager Materazzi were having on him and his fellow Indians in the Chennai squad. “Marco and Elano are very good footballers. They are helping Indian players and we can learn a lot from them,” Jeje said. He reserved special praise for marquee player Elano, who is currently the league’s leading goalscorer. “He’s a great guy and very a good player. He is easy to understand and when he gets the ball he can do anything with it.”

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