Gregory looking forward to AFC Cup encounter against Minerva
Chennaiyin begin their 2019 AFC Cup campaign when they take on fellow Indian side Minerva Punjab at the Arena Stadium in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. This will be the former Hero ISL champions’ first taste of playing in a continental competition and John Gregory’s side will undoubtedly be raring to go. The Marina Machans endured a horrendous league campaign, where they finished bottom of the league table, but a successful run in the AFC Cup could go a long way towards mending their wounds.
Drawn in Group E, Chennaiyin host Hero I-League side Minerva Punjab as part of their first encounter. The 2017-18 Hero I-League champions have had a similarly disastrous season, where they finished in 10th place in the league standings. Minerva earned themselves a direct entry to the AFC Cup after losing out during the AFC Champions League qualifiers. Like Chennaiyin, a decent run in the cup will be their primary agenda.
At the pre-match press conference, head coach of Chennaiyin, John Gregory spoke to the media on what to expect from his side. He began by addressing the threat posed by Minerva and the steps needed to stop them. “We have seen Minerva Punjab have a fantastic 2017-18 season, winning the I-League. We are really looking forward to the group stages. We won't underestimate Minerva. They're a tough first match in the group stages. They haven't had a great domestic season this time though. We want a successful start. The teams from Nepal and Bangladesh will also pose challenges,” he commented.
Chennaiyin come into this tie on the back of impressive victories against Colombo FC and Mumbai City FC. Speaking about the impact of those results, Gregory said, “We have enjoyed playing against Colombo FC and our recent win over Mumbai City FC in the Super Cup. We have been strong defensively and have our forwards Jeje Lalpekhlua and CK Vineeth also doing well. The team morale and confidence is great at the moment. We just get on with things and face the challenge ahead of us. Physically and mentally the boys are in great condition.”
A major boon for Chennaiyin will be the return of Dhanpal Ganesh. The midfielder made his first appearance for the club, after a lengthy injury absence, during the Hero Super Cup encounter against Mumbai City. Talking about his team’s fitness ahead of the game, Gregory mentioned, “We don't have fitness concerns. We are delighted to have Dhanpal Ganesh and Jerry Lalrinzuala back to full training. They have worked incredibly hard. It was great to see Ganesh get some game time against Mumbai in the Super Cup.”
Venue: The Arena Stadium, Ahmedabad
Time: 7.30 PM, 3rd April 2019