Chennaiyin FC head coach John Gregory is extremely confident that his defence can handle ATK's Robbie Keane, if the forward plays when the two teams meet at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai on Thursday in a round four Indian Super League (ISL) clash.
Chennaiyin, who conceded three goals in the opening half of their ISL opener against FC Goa, are yet to ship a goal in the 225 minutes of football after that and John Gregory is confident of maintaining another cleansheet on Thursday.
In particular, he pointed out that his defence, led by former ATK defender Henrique Sereno, managed to muzzle Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro in Pune in their last game.
"When we played in Pune, they had both Alfaro and Marcelinho who are excellent forwards," Gregory told reporters at the pre-match press conference. "They were a handful
but we managed to keep them quiet in the game.
"I expect (Robbie) Keane to start and we will show him the repsect he deserves but we will focus on our game and hopefully my defenders will play like they've been doing and keep a cleansheet. But no, we don't have special plans for him."
"I've been pleased that we have not conceded in two and half games now and we have scored at least three goals in the last 10 minutes of games. We are close as a team and my boys have a willingness to keep working," he stressed.
The former Aston Villa boss has started the same starting XI in their previous two games but did not rule out making a change for this game.
"We obviously had to change our team after the first half (against FC Goa) and it was for the better. We had two wins after that and I think it shows the characters that I have in the team. I have players that will keep going regardless of what's happening on the pitch.
I started with the same team against NorthEast United and FC Pune City. (But) it's not always going to be the case. People say you don't change a winning team but sometimes you need to make changes to improve the team in certain areas."
Thursday's game pits John Gregory against another English stalwart in Teddy Sheringham, who does not have the managerial experience the Chennaiyin manager boasts of. But Gregory felt that both of them are on a level playing field when it comes to coaching in the ISL.
"I'm sure I've coached against him when he was at Old Trafford - when we used to go to Old Trafford and lose! He was an outstanding footballer in his prime. He's had a fantastic
playing career and has won everything there is," Gregory elaborated.
"He is just starting out in his managerial career but he is learning. Like me, he is a novice here in India. But he's got good coaching staff around him. He's got Ashley (Westwood) who has experience in the country.
"ATK have beaten many sides in the ISL over the years. They are a huge club in the ISL with successful campaigns. So, it is a big game for us. Hopefully, we can beat them this time."
The manager also had huge praise for Tamil Nadu-born Dhanpal Ganesh who has been impressive in a holding role in midfield so far.
"(Dhanpal) Ganesh is in the team to do what he does best. He is not Raphael Augusto. He can do things Rafa can't do but together in the same team, they're a tough combo to play against. I wouldn't want to play against him because he's tough, he's good in the air and tackles well. He stays within his limitations and does not try things he can't do. He's had a tough time last season but he's had an exceptional couple of games so far," Gregory signed off.