CHENNAI, Oct 17 (PTI): Defending champions Chennaiyin FC would hope to taste first win of the season after back-to-back defeats as they take on NorthEast United FC in their next ISL match on Thursday.
After an away loss to Bengaluru FC in their campaign opener, Chennaiyin were outclassed by an attack-minded FC Goa at home on October 6.
The forward line of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Carlos Salom has had a disappointing start and have not hit the ground running for their team. Their form will be crucial for the team's revival, as would be that of other key players like Raphael Augusto and Gregory Nelson.
In the season opener against Bengaluru, Lalpekhlua missed a couple of sitters, which eventually cost Chennaiyin. He needs to start scoring in order to get his team to winning ways.
Home team coach John Gregory may look to ring in some changes in the starting eleven against NEU FC and there is a possibility of Palestinian striker Carlos Salom getting another game. He looked sharp after being brought in the second half against Goa.
The coach, however, said he was not the one to make changes in a "knee-jerk" manner.
"We are not desperate though. We had many such challenges last season and were unaffected by them. I just want my boys to relax, play and leave the worrying to me!," he added.
He also backed Jeje to come good after two unimpressive outings so far.
Jeje has that capability. He just needs to stay relaxed and be focused. Once they get the first goal, everything else follows up. Similarly, a win is all we need to turn our season around, Gregory said.
The Englishman said NEU FC had a fantastic start adding he believed the players had the capability to win matches.
"NorthEast have had a fantastic start to the season and we have to respect them. They beat ATK and almost beat Goa. They should have won that game. But I have to show belief in my players. They have the capability to win it for us, he added.
"I have a very hungry set of players, even waiting in the ranks, looking forward to make the most of the opportunity given to them. Everyone is determined to get our first point on the board tomorrow evening," the Chennaiyin FC coach said.
NorthEast United, under Eelco Schattorie, made a strong start to the tournament. After an exciting 2-2 draw against FC Goa at home, they defeated a strong ATK side in Kolkata.
The team will miss the services of goalkeeper TP Rehenesh due to his involvement in an incident in the game against ATK. The All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Disciplinary Committee has put him under interim suspension for acting violently against an ATK player.
"Rehenesh has been put on interim suspension pending full inquiry by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee after it emerged through the match footage, that the goalkeeper had acted violently against ATK player Gerson Vieria during the last meeting between the two clubs at Salt Lake Stadium on 4th October 2018," an ISL statement said.
Rowllin Borges, Federico Gallego and Bartholomew Ogbeche have done well for the team from the north-east. Nigerian Ogbeche, the former PSG striker, has been good upfront and will look to improve NEU FC's efficiency in front of goal.
The Croatian duo of Mato Grgic and Mislav Komorski will marshal the defence with Rowllin Borges playing the anchor role in midfield.
Meanwhile, NEU FC coach Schattorie felt the team can compete with any other side in the ISL.
"Chennai has more individual quality than us. They have a few weaknesses and hopefully, we can exploit that, said the Dutch coach.
Schattorie saw his side go toe-to-toe with a dominant FC Goa and match up to their attacking football, clinching a 2-2 draw.
"It is always difficult (after a break). The biggest challenge is to adapt to the humidity in Chennai. It was really hot when we trained in the morning. Evening seems to be better, he added.
In the 2017-18 season, the Highlanders were handed a 3-0 drubbing by Chennaiyin and will be looking to exact revenge with the defending champions not in the best of forms. NEU FC will go into the match high on confidence while Chennaiyin are in search of some spark to spur their campaign.