Amidst a topsy-turvy battle for the top spot, Kerala Blasters FC will look to reclaim the first position in the points table in their clash against Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on November 29, Wednesday.

FC Goa replaced the Tuskers in that coveted place with a 1-0 victory against Jamshedpur FC to round off the seventh Matchweek of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24. However, Ivan Vukomanovic and his men have been flawless and walk around with an air of inevitability so far this season.

They have won four out of their five home games and the match on Wednesday will again see them turning up in front of some breath-taking crowd support, and whether they capitalise on that to make the most of the home advantage remains to be seen.

What’s at stake?

Kerala Blasters FC

Plenty of Kochi games at the start of the season give the Kerala Blasters a head-start to accumulate as many points as possible in the opening half of the campaign. They should be looking to build a distance in this phase with other teams in the league before a host of challenging encounters on the road come their way.

Chennaiyin FC

It has been a season of there and thereabouts for Chennaiyin FC. Barring a few games, they have often been close to the finishing line but have frequently fallen short of the same. An instant boost of confidence is essential to inspire some self-belief within the squad, and few things come close to upsetting Kerala Blasters in their own backyard.

There’s a caveat though – with 11 wins and a draw in 15 home games, Vukomanovic more often than not gets his team right in Kochi.

Key Players

Miloš Drinčić (Kerala Blasters FC)

The 24-year-old defender has made 2.25 tackles, three clearances, and attempted 42 passes on an average in his four appearances in the league. He also netted the winner against Hyderabad FC. The likes of Drinčić, Rei Tachikawa (Jamshedpur FC), Cy Goddard (Odisha FC), are trendsetters in terms of foreign internationals at the start of their careers choosing to ply their trade in the ISL. For a player like Drinčić to succeed is not only essential for Kerala Blasters, but also for the entire league to become an attractive destination for young players across the globe.

Ninthoinganba Meetei (Chennaiyin FC)

The 22-year-old scored the equaliser for Chennaiyin FC against East Bengal FC, and the sudden sharpness that he showed whilst scoring the goal made people pause and take notice of his tremendous talent. The former Indian Arrows product is playing his fifth ISL season, having turned up in 54 games, but has averaged merely 45.72 minutes on the field per match.

His outputs haven’t been up to the mark before this campaign, having netted only once prior to the match against Carles Cuadrat’s side. However, that strike must have instilled great self-belief in the player and one can anticipate him to play a crucial role in Owen Coyle’s plans against Kerala Blasters.

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Played – 20

Kerala Blasters FC – 6

Chennaiyin FC – 6

Draws – 8

Trivia: Vincy Barreto, former Kerala Blasters FC now with Chennaiyin FC, scored for the Marina Machans against his former team in their league fixture last season.

Team Talk

“Our games against Chennaiyin FC have always been tough. I expect a very tough, physical game with many duels tomorrow. It is the type of game that has always happened between these two teams. Where we or our opponent stand at the table at the moment doesn’t matter right now. Every game is tough at home, especially because the other team always wants to show something extra,” Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic said in the pre-match press conference.

“It’s going to be a great game. If I took myself back to being a player, this is the kind of game that you want to play. Kerala have been doing fantastic, all credit to them, they have a very good coach. Because they have had consistency with the same coach, building an infrastructure within the club, they have a clever sporting director, and they have set a fantastic plan for the team. We know the backing they have and that obviously makes this game special,” Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle heaped praise on the opponents before the match. 

ISL Fantasy

Adrian Luna (10.3cr)

With three goals and as many assists, the Kerala Blasters FC skipper has arguably been the player of the season so far

Rafael Crivellaro (7.6cr)

The Brazilian is the creative fulcrum of his side, even assisting the equaliser in the last match

Sachin Suresh (4.2cr)

The goalkeeper is having an impressive campaign, becoming the first goalkeeper in ISL history to save penalties in consecutive games

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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 SD & HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam) & DD Bangla (Bengali). 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. 

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