Kerala, Chennaiyin to battle it out for pride
Both sides may already be out of the reckoning for the semi-finals, but Friday's clash between Kerala Blasters FC and Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi promises an exciting encounter, considering the prevalent rivalry between the two sides and the pride at stake.
The two teams have locked horns on 11 occasions in the past, with Chennaiyin winning four and Kerala triumphing twice.
It has been a season to forget for Kerala, who have struggled for the majority of the campaign and currently find themselves ninth in the table with just 11 points from 15 matches. The club parted ways with former head coach David James mid-season and brought in Nelo Vingada to replace the Englishman. Kerala have looked marginally better under Vingada, but have been unable to rake in the results. In their three matches under the Portuguese boss, Kerala have drawn two and lost once. Currently on a 14-match winless run, Friday's match in front of their home crowd will be the perfect opportunity for the Yellow Brigade to break the unsavoury trend against one of their biggest rivals in the league.
Kerala players can take heart from their first-half display against table toppers Bengaluru FC in their last match, which saw them race to a 2-0 lead. Kerala were eventually unable to protect the advantage and could only manage a point from the match. Vingada, however, will surely want to use the first 45 minutes against Bengaluru as the blueprint for his team going forward, starting with the match against Chennaiyin.
Kerala will, however, be without defender Nemanja Lakic-Pesic who has reportedly been handed a retrospective suspension for his involvement in a tussle during the match against Bengaluru. However, Vingada will also be provided a boost by the return of Anas Edathodika from a long injury layoff.
Here’s a look at Kerala’s current season in numbers:
Chennaiyin came into Hero ISL 2018-19 as the defending champions but have done little to justify the tag. With 11 losses in their 15 matches so far, John Gregory's team are currently rooted to the bottom of the table. However, the two-time champions managed to upset Bengaluru FC in the South Indian Derby in their last outing and will be hoping the win triggers a run of good form - something which has eluded them this season.
One of the biggest concerns for Chennaiyin this season had been the lack of goals from their forwards, particularly Jeje Lalpekhlua. Chennaiyin's all-time top scorer finally managed to break his duck this season against Bengaluru and Chennaiyin fans will hope the goal can aid their talisman regain his prolific goal scoring touch. Midfielder Raphael Augusto also showed glimpses of his old self against Bengaluru and will look to build on it against Kerala. Another big boost for Chennaiyin will be the return of captain Mailson Alves, who missed the team's last three matches due to a suspension. CK Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary, who moved to Chennaiyin from Kerala in the January transfer window, will have a point to prove against their former side.
Here’s a look at Chennaiyin’s current season in numbers:
Kerala Blasters FC: Dheeraj Singh (GK), Anas Edathodika, Mohamad Rakip, Sandesh Jhingan (C), Pritam Singh, Seiminlen Doungel, Keziron Kizito, Courage Pekuson, Sahal Abdul Samad, Matej Poplatnik, Slavisa Stojanovic
Chennaiyin FC: Karanjit Singh (GK), Tondonba Singh, Eli Sabia, Mailson Alves (C), Laldinliana Renthlei, Christopher Herd, Francisco Fernandes, Raphael Augusto, Gregory Nelson, Jeje Lalpekhlua (C), CK Vineeth
DID YOU KNOW?
- Kerala are the only team who are yet to score in the opening 15 minutes of the match.
- Chennaiyin have conceded the most number of goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches (15).
- Kerala are the only side who are yet to win a match at home this season.
Which team will triumph?
- Kerala Blasters FC
- Chennaiyin FC
Have your say in the comments section below.
Catch the match live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV at 7.30 PM.