Chennaiyin FC will play hosts to Kerala Blasters FC as the often hotly contested southern rivalry of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 will take place at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday. The Marina Machans are keen to spark a turnaround, languishing at the penultimate position in the points table at present.

With 12 points from 13 games, only the winless Hyderabad FC is below them in the standings as of now. Interestingly, the team had entered the mid-season break whilst being amongst the playoff spots. However, with Jamshedpur FC and Punjab FC gaining steam now, Chennaiyin FC has an uphill task in the coming nine matches.

Similarly, Kerala Blasters FC has lost momentum since the campaign resumed too. The Ivan Vukomanovic-coached team has faced defeats in successive games against Odisha FC and Punjab FC. Plagued with injuries to key stars, the Kochi-based side will be keen to reignite their stake for the top spot.

They are five points (26) behind league leaders Odisha FC (31), and have a game in hand (14) as compared to the Juggernauts (15). Despite the recent losses, they can bridge the gap between them and Sergio Lobera’s side, and should look to embark on that pursuit from the clash against Chennaiyin FC onwards.

What’s at stake?

Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC has faced difficulties in overcoming Kerala Blasters FC lately, failing to win in their previous seven matches against them in the league. However, the Marina Machans has not lost in their last eight ISL games at home against Kerala Blasters FC. Four of those games have resulted in a win for them and an equal number of matches have ended in a draw. However, with losses in each of their previous three league encounters, Owen Coyle needs to turn things quickly for them.

More importantly, they have failed to find the back of the net in each of those matches as well, highlighting concerns for a frontline gifted with some seasoned international stars such as Jordan Murray, Rafael Crivellaro, amongst others. Having given away 23 goals in 13 games, Chennaiyin FC has concerns to look after in their backline too. They have conceded seven strikes from outside of the box, and their midfield needs some tightening to ensure they don’t give away open spaces for the opposition to exploit in the middle of the park.

Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters FC went into the season break high on confidence, having stitched together a series of impactful, entertaining performances. However, the absence of Adrian Luna and Kwame Peprah has hurt them deeply, with the attacking unit missing the X-factor.

Dimitrios Diamantakos, too, appears to be overburdened with carrying the team ahead, and the side requires just and equal contributions from all players to ensure that they deliver improved performances from hereon.

Despite the recent losses, their current tally of 26 points from 14 league matches is the highest points they have accumulated after these many games in any ISL season. Eight victories so far is the most wins they have garnered after the aforementioned matches of any campaign as well, suggesting that they are well on course to challenge for the top honours still.

The opening 15 minutes of the second half is a phase that one needs to keep close tab on.

Kerala Blasters FC tends to resume proceedings strongly after the halftime whistle, scoring five goals in the minute 45-60 period this season. No team has conceded more goals (6) than Chennaiyin FC in this time frame. Is it all gearing up for another high-scoring thriller like the 3-3 draw the last time these two teams squared off?

Key Players

Jeakson Singh (Kerala Blasters FC)

Jeakson Singh promises to bring a whole new element to the Kerala Blasters FC midfield. The player is an enforcer operating from the centre of the park, stopping the opposition’s attacks, and initiating the same of his own team through slick passes capable of splitting the other team apart. He limits his role to deep inside the park, shielding the backline and using his dominant aerial presence to perfection whilst defending set pieces.

Jeakson averages 36 passes per game at 82% accuracy, having made 1.4 interceptions every 90 minutes throughout his ISL career. He tends to win the occasional foul from goal-scoring positions, and is an all-round package that Vukomanovic will want to optimise in the second half of the season.

Ayush Adhikari (Chennaiyin FC)

The Chennaiyin FC midfielder has played all 13 of their matches so far, averaging 23 passes at 75% accuracy. Ayush Adhikari has emerged as a definite starter in the Chennaiyin FC ranks, and it speaks volumes of the performances that he has been delivering consistently.

He is sort of an engine in the middle, blocking offences, distributing the ball to the frontline, effectively carrying out the role that Anirudh Thapa used to do for the Marina Machans previously.

Adhikari has not netted so far this season and that is one area where Coyle will want him to improve upon to bring a well-rounded perspective to his gameplay. Having been booked only once, his disciplinary record is impressive too and he will be eyeing carrying out his duties to perfection in the coming match.

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Head-to-Head

Played – 21

Chennaiyin FC – 6

Kerala Blasters FC – 6

Draws – 9

Trivia: Rafael Crivellaro (11) is two goals away from becoming the highest scorer for Chennaiyin FC in the ISL.

ISL Fantasy

Rafael Crivellaro (7.3cr)

Creator-in-chief for Chennaiyin FC in the ISL

Jordan Murray (7.1cr)

Goal-scoring threat from the home team’s ranks

Sachin Suresh (3.6cr)

Dependable figure for KBFC from between the posts

If not registered already, fans can participate in the overall league or club-based leagues based on their preferences. Create private leagues, inviting friends and fellow football aficionados to compete. Prizes include a Sony PlayStation ®️ ️5 gaming console, EA Sports FC 24, signed club merchandise, and a Gift Card worth INR 20,000, which will be awarded to 100 winners at the end of the season. Sign up at: https://fantasy.indiansuperleague.com/

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.