Bengaluru FC will step into the den of Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium on December 13, Wednesday, with an eye on resurrecting a tough start to their campaign in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24. The Blues parted ways with their head coach Simon Grayson after a 4-0 loss against Mumbai City FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Friday.

Bengaluru FC underwent a significant revamp in the summer, letting go of a host of experienced stars like Sandesh Jhingan and Udanta Singh to welcome a newer crop of individuals with a target of building a future, possibly with Grayson at helm. Post the Englishman’s exit, it remains to be seen whether the profile of players they have currently will suit the demands of the new tactician taking over the reins.

For Chennaiyin FC, this is an ideal opportunity to strike the iron when it’s hot. They have drawn their last three games against East Bengal FC, Kerala Blasters FC, and Jamshedpur FC respectively, but in Bengaluru FC, they have a chance to score three points and also notch a morale win over their southern rivals.  Owen Coyle and his men have been there and thereabouts of a victory since long, but overcoming the Blues should set them about in a good, positive momentum, given the foundation that has been laid by a series of draws so far.

What’s at stake?

Chennaiyin FC

The Marina Machans are placed eighth on the table, just three points behind sixth-placed NorthEast United FC. They can break into those slots with some good outcomes under their belt, but certain defensive strengthening is of utmost importance for that. Chennaiyin FC have conceded 18 goals after nine games this season, which is the second-most that they have given away at this stage of any ISL edition, after the 20 in the previous campaign. 10 of those goals have been conceded in the first-half of their matches, which is the joint-most amongst all teams, including Bengaluru FC.

Chennaiyin FC have shown signs of a well-performing unit in phases so far, with the terrific quality in their frontline like Rafael Crivellaro, Jordan Murray, and Connor Shields capable of taking the best of defences apart. Farukh Choudhary and Rahim Ali have chipped in with important contributions occasionally too, so all Coyle needs to do is to get his backline to hold their shape particularly at the start of the game to get them over the finishing line.

Chennaiyin FC are on a four-game winless streak right now,  and the last time they played more games without a result was a stretch of four draws in November 2014. Will Wednesday bring them the much-needed win?

Watch the highlights from Chennaiyin FC’s last match here:

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC can take a leaf out of the book of Mumbai City FC. The Islanders came to the home of the Blues without a head coach but they still smashed four goals past them to win convincingly. Grayson had a playing template that worked for a reasonable time with Bengaluru FC, and they should arguably try and stay true to that until a new head coach with a different set of ideas is appointed.

Moreover, the type of players the club has at their disposal at the moment will thrive in that philosophy, which ensures keeping a tight backline, hitting the teams on the counter and maximising set-piece opportunities. In Grayson’s own words, there was a conscious effort to shake up the playing style in this campaign, to discover newer ways of breaking the opposition’s defence.

That certainly did not pay off well, and they can consider falling back to the philosophy that had worked on an interim basis for the time being. They boast of a formidable record against Chennaiyin FC though, being unbeaten in their last eight fixtures against the Marina Machans. This is their longest such streak against a single opposition in the competition's history and the Blues will be eager to stretch that even further with the coming encounter.

Watch the highlights from Bengaluru FC’s last match here:

Key Players

Rafael Crivellaro (Chennaiyin FC)

The Brazilian is the midfield lynchpin of Chennaiyin FC, playing just behind the forwards. He is sort of the director of all that goes about in the frontline of the Marina Machans, with his quick footwork, ability to work his way out of closed spaces, eye for a pass, ability to slow the game down, and crack open a defence with his timely deliveries ensuring that the team is never short of creative inputs.

These traits of the 34-year-old reflect in his numbers as well, having racked up two goals and five assists in nine appearances so far. He has recorded a goal contribution in every 103 minutes he has spent on the field, creating 2.7 goal-scoring chances per game. Crivellaro will try making the most of a Bengaluru FC backline with the ball at his feet, trying to cause mayhem with his crafty skillsets.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Bengaluru FC)

Bengaluru FC need their leaders to step up, and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is surely one of them. The goalkeeper stands tall between the posts, guarding the defence, constantly communicating with his defenders, and pulling off one impressive save after another when on song. He must be edging to get back to his best after slipping away four strikes in the previous encounter.

Sandhu leads the league in terms of saves made from outside the box (16) this season. The India international player will want to put the unhappy memories from the previous game behind him as the defence, and will be looking up to him to pull them out of the rut. Keeping a clean sheet must be a priority for Bengaluru FC in the coming game, for it will show that they have learnt from their errors from the previous match, and Sandhu will play an essential role in helping them do so against a free-flowing, fluent Chennaiyin FC frontline.

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Team Talk

“We have done some really good performances. We should have picked up more points in those last three games. In the essence of what we are trying to do is really good. The performance level was very high, so we just need to fine tune a little bit,” Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle said ahead of the game. 

“I hope the boys are ready. All I want to say is that after a big loss, look at the way the supporters supported till the end. Where on Earth are you going to get such supporters? Boys should have pride and fight for themselves, the club, and the fans,” Bengaluru FC interim head coach Renedy Singh said in the pre-match press conference.

ISL Fantasy

Rafael Crivellaro (7.6cr)

Two goals and five assists in nine appearances so far

Sunil Chhetri (7.8cr)

Three goals and two assists in seven outings until now

Javi Hernandez (10cr)

Two goals in eight matches in ISL 2023-24

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