Chennaiyin FC head coach Thomas Brdaric is hopeful of his team returning to winning ways after six winless games as they square off against Odisha FC in Matchweek 18 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennai, on Thursday.

Both teams are stuck on the same page, having won just one game in their last seven matches. Currently below Bengaluru FC and holding a game in hand, Odisha FC are in desperate need of the three points in order to be in contention for the playoffs berth.

Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, are five points below their opponents, and a win in this fixture will boost their hopes for a playoff finish. With three of the remaining five games to be played at home, Brdaric is confident of his men returning with the desired points.

“We had a pre-match meeting with the players, and we tried to show them the opportunities. Five matches are left, and we need to get 15 points if everything goes the way we want, which will help us reach our targets. Now is the time to play with experience and a good team, and I am confident we will be able to implement what is required,” Brdaric said in the official pre-match press conference.

The two-time Hero ISL champions have missed the presence of their Dutch-Morroccan star Abdenasser El Khayati, who has been a central asset for the team given his creativity with the ball and presence of mind off the ball, due to a hamstring injury. Brdaric called for his team to be patient and not to rush into risking injured players directly onto the field.

“It is always good to have all players on the board, but we have some issues to sort out because getting the players back in shape is not easy and we need to be patient. Thursday is going to be a decisive day for the club, and we will need everybody to perform with motivation to survive in the match,” he added.

The Marina Machans have the highest number of draws this season (five). While the team has not been lacking any signs of intent, the side has often failed to capitalise in several matches despite putting efforts to play Brdaric's style of football. The head coach highlighted the importance of keeping composure not just in attack but throughout the game to get the three points.  

“Offensive football is always risky, how we want to stay at the back is also important, so we are working on that. The response is clear, everybody has to be in shape as we play high intensity football, the transitions in the league are very high, and we need to be powerful in every department,” the 48-year-old said.

Josep Gombau has turned Odisha FC into a powerhouse when it comes to pressing and fielding a high defensive line of play. This has worked well in goalscoring aspects for the Kalinga Warriors, with striker Diego Mauricio helping the team with 12 goal contributions this season. The German has a blueprint to stop their opponents in the tracks and hopes to execute it well.

“If you follow the last few matches of Odisha FC, they press pretty well and create good chances. We will be pressing with high intensity to reduce the gaps and spaces for the opponents, they are offensive on the wings. I hope we can implement our plan well against them,” he commented.

Brdaric was accompanied by one of the more experienced players of the team, Julius Duker, in the pre-match press conference.

Chennaiyin FC's 3-1 defeat against Bengaluru FC in the previous game marked their third away defeat of the season. With the league stage of the season drawing towards a close, Duker encouraged his team to step up despite the setback and wants them to focus on each game.

“We were very disappointed, we spoke a lot about the game, and it is a good thing that we play the next game soon, which will not affect us. We stay motivated, and we play every game as a final, and we know the importance of every forthcoming game," Duker said in the official pre-match press conference.

The midfielder has the most interceptions and tackles amongst the foreign players in the team and has been doing well while playing in an advanced role on the pitch, but he considers being on the pitch more important than his position on the field.

“The most important thing for me is staying on the pitch, and if I play at number six or number 10, it is not my decision. I will always try to give my best no matter which position I play in,” he commented.

The Chennaiyin FC supporters are happy with the attitude the team has shown throughout the season, which has been full of ups and downs. Albeit a rollercoaster ride, their support will always be of utmost importance for the team, especially in the upcoming matches. Duker believes the supports of their fans is what will get them through in the final stages of the league season.

“Now is the time to stick together, I am convinced we can get results in the last five games, and now is the time to motivate each other, and we will need the support of our fans, especially in the home matches. We hope to get three points,” Duker concluded.