Gregory: No tougher challenge than Goa away in first match

Two-time champions Chennaiyin FC are set to renew their rivalry against FC Goa in their first match of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20, to be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Wednesday. John Gregory and Co. finished bottom of the league last season and will hope to put the disappointment behind them with a successful campaign this term.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Gregory stated that he was wary of the test waiting for his team against the Gaurs. "Goa have a team that’s very settled for a long time. Under Sergio (Lobera) for two seasons, they almost had the same squad. The one or two adjustments that they made have only made them a better team. There’s no game more difficult than a first away game against Goa."

While the Englishman acknowledged the threat of his opponents, he also reaffirmed his faith in the team, especially the domestic players. "We have signed the likes of Edwin (Vanspaul) and (Lallianzuala) Chhangte, while Dhanpal Ganesh and (Anirudh) Thapa have signed long term contracts. We feel that the domestic players are the future for Chennaiyin over the next few seasons. We are very happy with our domestic players. With the six new foreigners that have come in, we hope that they have the same kind of influence the foreigners had in the fourth season.”

Asked about the changes to the team since the last season, Gregory remarked, "We didn’t get the performances we were anticipating in the previous season. Going into last season as champions, we didn’t perform to our fullest as a group. We didn’t meet the standards that we had set as a team two seasons back as well. So, we had to make important changes, especially among the domestic players. We feel we made the right changes in the right areas. There are improvements right through the team. Some things had to change, and we have done that."

One FC Goa player Gregory won't have to worry about will be the Gaurs' midfield maestro Ahmed Jahouh, who is suspended for the match. "He is probably my favourite player. He has been instrumental to Goa’s success. I think Sergio has used him very well in the position he has played him in. He has always been the outstanding player for FC Goa. So, I am very happy he isn’t playing," Gregory quipped when asked if the Moroccan's absence could be advantageous to his team.

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