Owen Coyle: At our best, we can beat any team

Unbeaten in their last eight Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 matches, Chennaiyin FC will host FC Goa in the first leg of their semi-final clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Saturday. Struggling near the bottom of the table at one stage, Chennaiyin have already shown great resolve under head coach Owen Coyle to get themselves to the knockout stages, but have their work cut out for them going up against table-toppers Goa.

At the pre-match press conference, the Marina Machans head coach highlighted the same and said, “When I came in on December 6th, we were given a 1 or 2% chance to get in the semi-finals. We have managed that but we don’t want to stop. We want to see that through. To do that, we would have to play at our very best because we are playing against a quality side.”

“But if we are at our best, we have shown that we can beat anyone. So, we are looking forward to the game and looking forward to standing toe-to-toe with the team that finished at number one. They finished there for a reason. Consistently over 18 games, they were the best team. I would like to think that in the last 12 matches, we certainly matched them and got closer. And that’s what we are looking forward to,” added Coyle.

The Chennaiyin head coach then looked back to his team’s last encounter against NorthEast United FC and said, “I think it was the first time in Hero ISL history a club started with 10 Indian players. We went down to 10 men and we still showed desire, quality. So, that was great but collectively, everybody knows their role in the team. They give everything they can to try and win games, try to play very attacking football that’s entertaining. People enjoy watching us and we want to make sure that we see it through.”

Coyle was also of the opinion that Goa’s triumphs over Chennaiyin in the two league phase fixtures earlier in the season will have little bearing on the semi-final ties. He noted, “The two games have no significance on the semi-final. I never lost twice to Goa. I was here for only one game. And in that game, if you look at my defence, three of the four who will play against Goa on Saturday, didn’t start the game. We are a much-changed team since we last played Goa.”

“The other thing we did was that we gifted FC Goa a 3-0 lead. And in the second half we were outstanding. So, what happened before has no bearing on the games to come. I think that yes, it will be an entertaining game. I don’t think you will see any of the two teams changing in terms of how they play. We both like to keep the ball and play attack-minded football. At the end of it, the best team will go to the final,” commented the 53-year-old.

Coyle then spoke very highly about midfielder Anirudh Thapa, stating, “He’s an absolute pleasure to work with every day because he wants to improve, wants to learn, wants to listen. I think we have some wonderful talent in the league, but for me he is the best Indian midfielder in the country. That’s saying something because there are some very wonderful players in the league. He continues to improve and has real desire, real hunger to get better. He is captain material. He has those qualities. Credit to everybody who have worked with him over the years. He is going to turn out to be a fine player for sure.”

Meanwhile, Thapa, who was also in attendance at the media briefing, said, “This is my first club. I started my professional career with this club. Winning the title in the fourth season was a big achievement for me at that age. But lifting the title, I always cherish that moment. I don’t think my role has changed. I used to play as a number eight then and I am playing the same part now. It’s about lifting the title. There are two clubs who have lifted the trophy twice, and both of them are in the semis. I hope we give our best against Goa and take our opportunities. We need to focus on our game and reach the final.”

Read the Match Preview here.

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