Gregory urges players to play for pride against rivals Bengaluru

In what will be a repeat of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2017-18 final, Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC will face off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. It was Chennaiyin who eventually came out on top in last season's grand finale, but the context of Saturday's encounter will be very different. Chennaiyin have endured a terrible season so far and are currently languishing at the bottom of the table with just 5 points from 14 matches. Bengaluru, on the other hand, have been phenomenal so far and currently lead the league standings. Despite the gulf in form, fans can expect a tense encounter, owing to the rivalry prevalent between the two sides.

At the pre-match press conference, Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory addressed the media and discussed how the fierce rivalry would serve as a big motivation for his players. "It's Bengaluru FC who we play next. The rivalry between both the teams was very evident last season. There was a lot at stake. It's not quite the same from our point of view this season, but there is definitely a lot of pride at stake. Off the field too, there is a huge rivalry between both sets of fans," he said.

Gregory then went on to laud the passionate Chennaiyin fans for sticking by the team despite their poor showings on the field. "Our support has been amazing. Last year's success is down to them. And we are immensely proud and grateful to our fans this year, for the unconditional support they have given us. They (the fans) expect victory against Bengaluru and it might give us and them some self-esteem. Our fans will take a win over Bengaluru as compensation. We want to pay our fans back for their patience," he said.

The Englishman also spoke about Bengaluru’s quality and said, "It will not be easy. Not one bit. Bengaluru keep managing to get results even when their performances haven't been up to the mark. They seem to find a way to get back into matches. It's in their DNA to play till the final whistle. And with players like Miku coming back, Bengaluru are always a danger. But let's hope we can put in the kind of performances we did against them last season."

Gregory also addressed the problems his side has faced this season and explained how these have left him frustrated more often than not. "We have out-passed and beaten teams in terms of possession this season but haven't managed to outscore them. We haven't been strong defensively and have missed a lot of chances too at the other end. It has been frustrating, to say the very least," he said.

"We have fallen short in too many areas on the pitch, but we will continue to work hard. We have big games against teams vying for play-off positions and it is our professional duty to go about our job and aim to get three points in each game," he added.

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