Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle is prepared for a tough challenge as they travel to face Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday. 

The Marina Machans are currently fighting an intense battle for the playoff berth, whereas their opponents are in an equally intense race for the League Shield. Chennaiyin FC currently sit eleventh on the league table with 18 points from their 18 matches, but a win against the second-placed Mariners will take them well within reach of the playoff berth. 

Coyle’s side will take the pitch fresh from a disappointing outing in their last match when Hyderabad FC secured their first win of the season, beating them 1-0 at the Marina Arena. Looking back at their performance that night, the head coach believes that a win in that match would have almost sealed their target.

Had we done our job as we did in the previous game when we beat Odisha FC, who were the table toppers at that time, then we'd be sitting six. So my point is, that the margin of sitting 11th to sixth (on the league table) is absolutely nothing. We would actually be the team favourite for the playoffs had we won that game (against Hyderabad FC). But that's the margin of football,” stated Coyle in the pre-match press conference.

With his eyes set on Mohun Bagan SG now, he continued saying, “So ultimately what we have to do now is come to a fantastic stadium and a footballing city against a big, big club and make sure that we perform well. We're more than capable of doing that.”

Mohun Bagan SG currently sit second on the table with 39 points in 18 matches, two points away from league leaders Mumbai City FC with a game in hand. 

Full of praise for the home team, the Scottish tactician said, “We know and I've got to be fair, we're playing a very, very good side, full of quality players, you know, ready-made players.”

“So we're very respectful of the challenge we face,” he added. 

Coyle is concerned about the Mariners' forwards who have made an impact this season, featuring Dimitri Petratos, Armando Sadiku, and Jason Cummings leading their frontline. Together, this trio has amassed an impressive total of 24 goals and six assists thus far in the season.

Acknowledging the threat that these players pose against Chennaiyin FC, Coyle shared, “We know the quality of their strikers, I mean even when Mohun Bagan SG are not playing particularly well. Petratos, Sadiku, and Jason Cummings, who I know very well from back in Scotland. These boys are capable of hitting one from 25, or 30 yards. They have that quality.”

“Mohun Bagan SG, in terms of current form, are the best team in the ISL at this point,” he emphasized. 

On being asked about how confident he is to take home all three points, the 57-year-old replied, “I'm confident as long as I know our lads get to our level.”

The head coach is excited to be playing at the Salt Lake Stadium and compared its ambience to that of the teams playing in the biggest leagues across the world. 

He said, “I've been all over the world in the best leagues, the best leagues in the world. And when it comes to Salt Lake Stadium, that's the kind of feeling you get from being in the big, big arenas.”

Sharing his outlook towards the exciting clash in Kolkata, Coyle stated, “If you know my teams, I don't ever come anywhere to sit back and play defensive. That's not how we play. Every year I play, I play to win because I have to build something with Chennaiyin FC, which is a mindset that I’ve had even in Jamshedpur FC. We're geared to win regardless of who we play. So that's how we go about it tomorrow. We're coming here to try and win the game.”

Addressing the injury concerns for the club, Coyle clarified, “We have one or two little concerns, but regardless of what we have, we'll give our very best to win the game.”

If we work together we can win: Connor Shields

Forward Connor Shields accompanied the head coach to the press conference. The Scot has bagged himself three goals and an assist so far this season and has been an instrumental figure in the Chennaiyin FC frontline. 

Giving insights into what he expects from their fixture against Mohun Bagan SG, the 26-year-old said, “I'll say it would be very hard to get a great score against a great team. But I feel if we work together and work hard, then we have the opportunity to go and win the match.”