Bengaluru FC will host Chennaiyin FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium as the southern rivals restart their bid to reignite their ambitions of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season. Kicking off at 7:30 p.m. (IST), this is a fixture that has always excited fans and supporters alike, due to the background significance attached to both the sides. The two sides had clashed in the final in the first campaign that Bengaluru FC competed in the ISL, i.e. 2017-18.

The Marina Machans had gotten the better of them in a thrilling 3-2 clash back then, and since then, this duel has taken many a turn, producing one entertaining encounter after another. However, right now, both sides are in similarly challenging circumstances. The Blues would have hoped for a happy start since the resumption of the season, but they ended up losing 3-1 to Punjab FC.

They ended up squandering a one-goal lead away from home, which will raise concerns for Gerard Zaragoza, especially because the club has invested in strengthening the defence in the winter transfer window through the acquisitions of Nikhil Poojary and Chinglensana Singh. Chennaiyin FC got Mobashir Rahman on loan, but it is widely perceived that they needed more incomings to build upon the first leg of the campaign that saw their team winning 12 points in as many games.

What’s at stake?

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC has made a remarkable statement in the transfer market, and the time has come for the head coach and the whole squad to live up the expectations of the fans as well as the owners. What’s startling to the supporters is that the team that made it to the ISL final last year cannot be struggling to find form, regardless of the departures. They boast of an incredible record against the Marina Machans, having defeated them seven times across the ISL seasons.

Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC won three matches in the opening leg of the campaign, and one of them was when they beat Bengaluru FC by 2-0 at home. The Marina Machans have in fact never won twice consecutively in this fixture in the past, and Owen Coyle must be aiming to bring curtains down to that run after getting a good month-long time to refine his squad and imprint his coaching style on them. The coach needs to plug some leakages in the back, having conceded 22 goals in 12 matches, only second behind Hyderabad FC, who have given away 24 strikes.

They have found the back of the net 15 times and are gifted with some really promising forwards in Jordan Murray, Rafael Crivellaro, Connor Shields amongst others. When on song, the trio is capable of running circles around any backline, and the new additions in the Bengaluru FC ranks thus have a task up their hands now. A sense of cohesion has been lacking in their setup off late, with all the departments being unable to click simultaneously. This has resulted in them dropping points when they could get all three of them. Hence, Coyle must be hoping that the start of the second half of the season is a mark of new beginnings for them.

Key Players

Oliver Drost (Bengaluru FC)

Bengaluru FC also roped in 28-year-old Danish forward Oliver Drost to replace the outgoing Curtis Main in the winter transfer market. Drost is a bit of an unknown commodity in the Indian footballing circuit, and that bit of unfamiliarity about him could help him spring a surprise in this crucial fixture. He has played in Denmark for most of his professional career and is deemed to be a quick operator in the final third. The Blues can do with some fresh legs that can trouble the opposition’s backline. He will be hoping to strike a good partnership with key players like Sunil Chhetri and Javi Hernandez, but whether Drost has it in him to be a key architect behind a possible turnaround for Bengaluru FC this year will be closely watched.

Ninthoinganba Meetei (Chennaiyin FC)

Ninthoinganba Meetei has been one of the promising players who have broken through the ranks to really shine under the tutelage of Coyle in Chennaiyin FC this season. He averages 61.7 minutes on the field per game and has netted twice in nine appearances in ISL 2023-24. The 22-year-old limits his involvement in the final third, averages 14 passes every 90 minutes, and has created nine goal-scoring opportunities. He has a burst of pace that comes in handy whilst catching the opposition off-guard inside their penalty box. He is also adept at drawing fouls from dangerous positions, and 75% of his shots have landed on target. There is some efficiency in his gameplay that helps him convert most of the chances that he creates or the ones that come his way. On that note, one can expect him to play an important role at the Kanteerava in the coming game.

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Played – 14

Bengaluru FC – 7

Chennaiyin FC – 4

Draws – 3

Team Talk

“Of course, you need to change the mood after the loss. When we lost one game, for which we travelled to Delhi, we played at 5:30pm, so everything was fast, and then we came home and the players were tired. We knew we had a game in three days. We need to work with them to change this mood. We forget the last game. We always look to work. Chennaiyin FC is coming and they are in this battle for the sixth position, and I can say that we are hungry, all of us want to fight till the last moment,” Bengaluru FC head coach Gerard Zaragoza said in the pre-match press conference.

“We know we go into the second half of the season with six games at home and four away. It’s a great opportunity for us to make it to the playoffs. We need to make sure that we are in the top-six. Everything is in our own hands. We decide our own fate. We are excited and looking forward to that,” Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle mentioned prior to the game.

ISL Fantasy

Sunil Chhetri (7.6cr)

Opened the scoring for BFC against Punjab FC

Javi Hernandez (9.8)

Primary source in BFC to create goal-scoring opportunities

Rafael Crivellaro (7.5cr)

Pivotal in most of Chennaiyin FC’s moves in the final third

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Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.