Chennaiyin FC's head coach, Owen Coyle, anticipates a challenging match as his team prepares to face NorthEast United FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday.

Both squads suffered defeats in Matchweek one of ISL 2023-24. NorthEast United FC put up a spirited performance but fell 1-2 to Mumbai City FC, while Chennaiyin FC faced a 0-2 setback against Odisha FC on their away fixture. Coyle's squad faces their second consecutive away match, and the Scottish coach expressed caution after observing NorthEast United FC's performance against Mumbai City FC.

“We have to continue to grow and develop and be clinical when the chances present themselves. We know it’s a tough game. Coming to Guwahati and the NorthEast is always difficult. I watched their game against Mumbai City FC. They did very well and had a really good performance. They scored a wonderful goal from Parthib (Gogoi), a really talented young Indian player. It’s fantastic for NorthEast United FC and the league (to see such talents). So we’re under no illusions how difficult the game will be. But we’re looking forward to it,” Coyle said in the pre-match press conference.

Chennaiyin FC hasn't reached the ISL playoffs for the past three seasons, with their last playoff appearance in the 2019-20 season under Coyle's guidance. During that season, Coyle orchestrated an incredible turnaround, propelling the Marina Machans from the bottom half of the table to the final. Coyle emphasized the need for Chennaiyin FC to return to their previous high standards in the current ISL season.

“We’re keen to have a good season and a season by Chennaiyin FC’s previous standards. Because in the past five years, the only time Chennayin FC have made it to the playoffs is when I and Sandy (Stewart) came in December (2019) when we were bottom of the league. For a club with the history that Chennaiyin FC have, we have to look to get back to the top and in the playoffs,” he noted.

Coyle acknowledged that progress takes time and effort, emphasizing the hard work of the players and their collective commitment to the team's vision.

"You don't come into a club, snap your fingers, and everything falls into place. We have to continue working hard. The players are a fantastic group to work with. An indifferent result won't change that. Friday's result won't change that. We know what the plan is moving forward, the vision, and what we're going to do," Coyle added.

Coyle is embarking on his fourth season in the ISL, having returned after a one-season hiatus. The experienced coach previously spent one season with Chennaiyin FC and two seasons with Jamshedpur FC, clinching the League Shield during the 2021-22 season. He expressed delight in witnessing the progression of young Indian talents in the league.

“It’s been great to see it all over the country (the rise of Indian talents). I’ve been fortunate and blessed to work with some great young Indian players who continue to grow and develop, which is what we (head coaches) all want to do. Ultimately, although my job and my responsibility is Chennaiyin FC, I still feel I have an obligation to try and help the young Indian players, who aspire to play for the national team,” he claimed.

Coyle underlined the positive impact of the ISL on the development of young Indian talents due to increased match opportunities and higher-level competition.

“In terms of young Indian talents in the ISL, I feel they are getting better. The ISL has been a big factor in that. Because now players are playing more games. And the more games you play, the players get to play at a higher level. We can do all the training you want, but on matchdays, that’s when players improve, during match situations. So the more we do that, the better they will be. That will help even the national team moving forward,” Coyle added.

During the pre-match press conference, Coyle was joined by full-back Aakash Sangwan, an experienced player on the team who played a crucial role for Chennaiyin FC in the previous season. Sangwan stressed the importance of a clean sheet against NorthEast United FC and expressed the team's goal of securing three points.

“The most important thing is to not concede goals and goals that we can easily defend. That’s our priority, we want to keep the clean sheet because that gives us a chance to win the game. Everyone is motivated to get that first win. The three points is the aim,” Sangwan said.

Coyle revealed that forward Jordan Murray had sustained an injury following the match against Odisha FC, where he had a fall after slipping on the stadium steps at the Kalinga Stadium. Murray's availability for the upcoming match against NorthEast United FC would be determined after a thorough assessment of his condition.