Chennaiyin FC assistant coach Sandy Stewart emphasised the need for a clever and adaptable approach as his side prepare to face Mumbai City FC in the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.

Taking on media duties in the absence of head coach Owen Coyle, who is suspended for the upcoming game, Stewart highlighted the importance of strategic flexibility.

Chennaiyin FC, aiming for a second consecutive home win, face a challenging task against Mumbai City FC, who currently sit in the third position with a notable 13-point gap between the two teams.

Stewart acknowledged the stylistic differences between the two teams, with Mumbai City FC favouring a possession-based approach while Chennaiyin FC have shown the ability to secure victories even without dominating possession. When questioned about whether Chennaiyin FC would adopt a more defensive strategy to counter Mumbai City FC's ball-dominant style, Stewart provided a pragmatic response, indicating a readiness to adapt their game plan as needed for the upcoming encounter.

"For us, this season, the best we’ve been is when we have been an aggressive team. We like to put pressure on the opposition and break the play,” Stewart said in the pre-match press conference. 

He further said: “I think it’s about, if we can put the pressure and you feel you can put the pressure, you do that. But when you feel you can’t, you may have to take a step back off the game and then regroup from there. But playing at home, we like to be aggressive. But sometimes, the situation in the game (you have to adapt to that). There will be times when we have to be aggressive and there might be times where we may have to take a backseat.”  

Mumbai City FC are poised to continue their momentum and close in on the top spot with another victory, having secured consecutive wins in their recent matches. A triumph against Chennaiyin FC would draw them level on points with current league leaders Odisha FC. Under the guidance of new head coach Petr Kratky, Mumbai City FC are undergoing a transitional phase, marked by significant foreign signings during the January transfer window.

Having already secured victories in both encounters against Chennaiyin FC this season, Mumbai City FC enter the upcoming match with confidence. Their previous encounters include a convincing 3-0 win at home in December and a successful 1-0 win in the group stages of the Kalinga Super Cup.

Stewart acknowledged Mumbai City FC's preference for possession-based football. However, he emphasized the importance of winning individual battles and applying pressure on Mumbai City FC players as crucial elements in their pursuit of securing three points

“Mumbai City FC like to take the ball, keep possession and put men in the middle of the park. They’ve got exciting wide players. But I feel that we’ll need to win our individual battles, whether it's in the middle of the park or at the back,” he explained.

“If we can win our individual battles and try to impose ourselves on Mumbai City FC, we have a better chance of winning. We know we can create chances against them like we did in the (Kalinga) Super Cup. We just need to be a lot more clinical. And if we are clinical, we should have a very good game,” he added.  

As a No 9, I need to keep playing as simple as I can: Rahim Ali

Stewart was accompanied by Rahim Ali in the pre-match press conference. Ali spoke about the importance of gaining three points from the game against Kerala Blasters FC and continuing the winning momentum.

“It was very important to get the three points in the last match. It was important for us to get that momentum and gain some confidence. Tomorrow’s match (on Friday) is a tough match for them (Mumbai City FC) and for us also. We are ready for that,” he said in the pre-match press conference.

The 23-year-old player has showcased versatility this season by adapting his game to different positions, featuring both on the wings and as a No. 9 for Chennaiyin FC. In their recent 1-0 victory against Kerala Blasters FC, he took on the role of leading the line.

Speaking about the differences in both positions, Ali said: “As a No 9, I need to keep playing as simple as I can and (head) coach (Coyle) has told me the same. On the wings, you will have more chances (to get space). But as a No 9, you don’t get too many chances to turn because you always have a man behind you. The more I play simple football, the better it's for me.”