Delhi face must-win battle with Chennai in ISL


Going into the final two days’ fixtures before the semifinals in the Indian Super League (ISL), two last-four spots are up for grabs (Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa have already qualified). All the other six sides are in with a chance, suggesting an inevitable scrap for places. Yet the equation at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday, where Chennai will host Delhi Dynamos, seems simple.

A win for Delhi will guarantee a semifinal place regardless of other results. Chennaiyin FC will stay in the top-two even if it loses. For the latter it also hands the advantage of playing its semifinal second leg at home. “It’s always better to be clear about what you have to do,” said Dynamos manager Harm van Veldhoven. “We knew this three for four games ago; that we should win all [the remaining games].”

These last four games have done wonders for Dynamos. It had just one win from the first nine matches until a change in tactics from Veldhoven, like employing a fluid front-three in a 4-3-3 formation sans Alessandro Del Piero, and the excellent form of centre-forward Francis Fernandes and Gustavo Dos Santos turned its fortunes around.

However the same cannot be said of Chennai. True, not much has been at stake in the last two fixtures especially with a semifinal spot already sewed up. But going into the knockouts on the back of two successive defeats to potential last-four opponents isn’t ideal preparation.

“One loss can be termed a mistake,” said player manager Marco Materazzi. “But losing twice is not on.”

To avoid that, Materazzi might have to look at his midfield options. The return of top-scorer Elano – though he might not be risked before the semifinals – does give the side a huge boost, but defensively it is still brittle.

So far Materazzi, captain Bojan Djordjic and Eric Djemba Djemba have tried to prop up the midfield by playing the shielding role in front of the back four.

But the side has looked convincing only when the Italian has taken the field.

Elsewhere, his fellow world-cup winner Alessandro Nesta, who joined the team recently, is in line to play, providing a breather for the Bernard Mendy-Mikael Silvestre central defensive partnership.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:21:52 AM |

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