Chennai: South is north as far as the fourth season of the Indian Super League is concerned with Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC occupying first and second place on the table respectively. The two top teams meet at Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday and the winners of the spicy South Indian derby will have the tailwind in the play-off race.
Having gone down to Chennaiyin 1-2 in the home fixture, Bengaluru will be keen to turn the tables here on Tuesday because a win will give them a seven-point cushion at the top. For Bengaluru coach Albert Roca, talk about being the best in the league are premature as nothing yet has been decided. “I feel it would be better to open up on the subject after the tournament,” he said.
As things stand now, Bengaluru and Chennaiyin appear on course to reach the play-offs but both know they aren’t yet there numerically. Chennaiyin coach John Gregory put it succinctly on Monday. “For me the season is starting tomorrow. We had just been jostling for positions so far. We need three wins on the final lap to secure a place in the play-offs. It’s not going to be easy for us,” he said.
Incidentally, Bengaluru and Chennaiyin are meeting in the crucial match after seeing off Atletico de Kolkata away in the previous round. While Roca’s team have only two days’ rest after their Kolkata sojourn, Chennai haven’t played since their trip to the Bengal capital on January 25. Predictably, Roca bemoaned the lack of rest for his team and Gregory elaborated on the advantages of playing back to back to matches.
Bengaluru, one of the two new teams in the ISL this season, have taken to the competition like a hippopotamus (don’t ducks need some rest?) to water. A settled squad with the same coach from last season’s I-League and a professional touch since inception has fired them to the top of the table.
Apart from the number of goals (14) both teams have conceded, what unites Bengaluru and Chennaiyin is the fine form of their leading Indian forward. Bengaluru captain Sunil Chhetri, also the national skipper, leads the charge for Indian football with eight goals, one more than Jeje Lalpekhlua of Chennaiyin.
The two forwards have proved that Indians do know how to stick the ball in the net. And, their battle for supremacy will be a sub-plot in what promises to be an electrifying match on Tuesday.
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