Chennaiyin FC have come a long way since finishing at the bottom of the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL) to qualifying to the group stage of the 2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and the ongoing Super Cup.
Ahead of their semi-final clash against ATK, the coach of the Marina Machans, John Gregory asserted that, "The dressing room is very good. As you can imagine, we are involved in the AFC Cup and the Super Cup and our players have a lot to play for. Our season is still ongoing and we have an opportunity to progress to another final. Everyone is in good shape, in good form and I have got a full squad to pick from which is always encouraging.
"Generally, there's a good mood. Obviously, we were disappointed by the way the ISL season turned out but coming into these two cup competitions has been a real good attitude for everybody. Everyone wants to play. Normally, this stage of the season a lot of players are looking to get back home but are very focused at the job at hand."
Set to play their third game in a span of 10 days as compared to ATK who were last in action on Friday, the former England international is of the opinion that it is not something new to them given their strict fitness regime.
"We got a shorter recovery time than ATK have had. Both of us playing tomorrow (Wednesday) will have a shorter time (for recovery) than FC Goa or Chennai City but it doesn't matter. Our boys have always adhered and stuck to what they have been told and generally, they recover very quickly.
"We trained this afternoon but it's just getting a little bit of a sweat on without doing too much. We're trying to save as much as we can for the matches that are coming. In the month of February last year, we had five matches and we went through it all and went on to play in the semi-finals and the final. So our players are accustomed to recover quickly.
"We are really looking forward to the game. The buzz that was there 12 months ago has come back. It's very evident in team meetings and when the guys are having their supper," he reiterated.
Of his assessment of how ATK have fared under Steve Coppell, Gregory emphasised that it has always been tough playing against his compatriot's teams.
"I know Steve very well from England. I know how his teams are set up to play, they have always been strong. He likes having big guys in his team who are always dangerous in set-pieces. Jamshedpur, last year, were very dangerous on set-pieces. It's part of Steve's philosophy that they work hard.
"We ourselves pride ourselves over set-pieces and they can win you matches. You must have seen the other night, both NorthEast and ourselves scored from set-pieces. So that's how important they are. Steve's teams are always tough to play against. They make it hard for you," the Chennaiyin gaffer observed.
Gregory spoke highly of the kind of competition ATK's Balwant Singh and Manuel Lanzarote can pose to his outfit. "In the last game, they played particularly well with one of our former players (Balwant) scoring a hat-trick. So they got players who can change the game.
"Certainly, with Lanzarote too, he presents a problem to us in his ability to create goals from nothing. He has also got the ability to score goals from any distance. He scored one of the goals of the season from a set-piece the other night and he's obviously one who we will have to try to keep quiet."
Retributing the momentum Chennaiyin have built in the 2019 Super Cup, having beaten Mumbai City FC and NorthEast United against whom they haven't been able to get a point against in the ISL season, the former Portsmouth coach reflected, "Sometimes, regardless of how you win matches, you gain a lot of confidence from that. Through the [ISL] season, the confidence week by week was disappearing. The players were getting very frustrated with each other, with themselves, with the coach. Towards the end of the season, we picked up some results and when you're winning matches it just brings so much more confidence with it."
Meanwhile, John Gregory also revealed that he took the advice of former Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca regarding being involved in multiple competitions.
"We get switched on straight away to realise which competition we're in, who we are playing against. And when we are doing the preparation, we are very switched on so as who what kind of system we are expected to play against and what kind of players we will be up against.
"BFC had the same problem 12 months ago. In February, they were involved in the AFC Cup while still involved in the ISL. I did speak with Albert Roca on more than one occasions last year about how he dealt with it.
"One of the things he felt was, once the ISL finished, when you are just in the AFC Cup there were long periods between games. He tried to advise me what to do if that happens to us. Sometimes you're just waiting there for two weeks to play the next match and he did say it was sometimes hard to keep everyone motivated," Gregory shared.