Chennaiyin face uphill battle to reach final

Having been thumped 3-0 in the first leg of their semi-final in Kochi against Kerala Blasters FC, Chennaiyin FC, who finished the league stage of the competition on top of the table, face an uphill task in the second leg at home. David James’ side were on the money right from the get-go as they left Chennaiyin with no space to work their usual attacking flair.

Chennaiyin will be looking to make use of their home advantage, much like Kerala did in the first leg, and hope they can use the support of the Chennai crowd to help overturn the deficit. Kerala have the luxury of their 3-0 lead from the first leg, and they know the pressure is squarely on Chennaiyin, who will have to go on an all-out attack. After successfully beating Kerala twice during the league phase of the tournament, Chennaiyin will take heart from those victories. For Kerala, all they have to do is survive the onslaught from Chennai for 90 minutes, and if they get another goal they would surely kill the tie and book their place in the final.

Balwant Singh vs James McAllister

The Indian forward was the first Indian goalscorer of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) when he netted against FC Goa in Chennaiyin’s first game of the tournament. The Punjab-born striker has been a standout performer for his side, but he will want to add to his goals tally and help his team overcome their deficit and make it to the final. McAllister had a solid outing at left back for Kerala in the first leg. He was even a thorn in Chennai’s side at the other end of the pitch, scoring a goal which was ultimately disallowed for offside. He will look to continue where he left off in the first leg and blunt the Chennai attack.

Bernard Mendy vs Victor Forcada

The former Hull City player will be a constant threat for the away side. Given the freedom to venture forward from centre-back given Chennai were playing with a three-man back line including new signing Alessandro Nesta, Mendy was constantly on the move in the first leg of the semi-final. His bombing runs forward caused Kerala a few problems and they will have to deal with him once more. Up against him will be Victor Forcada, better known as Pulga, who has proved to be a versatile player for David James’ side. Constantly switching wings with Stephen Pearson, Pulga makes his presence on the field felt with his physicality and clever passes.

Mikael Silvestre vs Michael Chopra

Silvestre brings to the Chennai squad the invaluable experience of having played for clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League. His strength in defence and positioning on the pitch are valuable assets of his game, and, after he and his fellow defenders’ poor showing in the first leg, he will want to make amends at home. Michael Chopra is another player who has Premier League experience and he will want to prove it on the pitch. He has yet to open his goalscoring account in the ISL, and securing Kerala’s place in the final with a goal will be foremost on his mind when facing off against an old foe.

Players to watch

Chennaiyin FC

Harmanjot Khabra – The Indian central midfielder, who has also played at right-back in recent matches, including the first leg of the semi-final, is a bundle of energy on the pitch as he runs tirelessly throughout the game. The need to score four goals to continue in the competition will spur the Indian on and he will want to have a good game against Kerala.

Kerala Blasters FC

Sandip Nandy – Ever since he replaced the injured David James in goal, Sandip Nandy has been nothing but stupendous for the away side. He reads the game well and comes off his line with authority to collect long balls and crosses. His positioning as a goal-keeper and reflexive saves were on show in the first leg and he will want to continue in the same vein of form to take his team into the final.