ISL 2017-18: 'ATK are the Manchester United of India,' says Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory

John Gregory regards ATK as a massive club, just like Manchester United...

Chennaiyin FC will look to do the double over ATK when the two sides meet at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan, on Thursday.

John Gregory, head coach of Chennaiyin, showered praise on his next opponents.

"We regard ATK as the Manchester United of India. It is a huge, massive club," said the coach.

"Even though we have been champions once, we look up to them. All my players are fired up as they want to play against ATK at this beautiful stadium. At the start of the season, the first thing I did was check when we do we play ATK, Much the same as everyone in England; when do we play Man United looking over the fixtures list, not so much Arsenal."

"We've suffered a little bit this season with what ATK puts up with. Teams obviously want to beat us, seeing where we are in the league table and we see a little bit extra when we play them.  It will be the same for us tomorrow (Thursday) night. When we play ATK, we'll get fired up," added the British coach.

He stressed the importance of pre-season and made a cheeky comment on how they used FC Pune's training facilities and then beat them on both legs.

"Pre-season is vastly important I'm glad we got it right. Delighted with how it went, to be honest. We went to Thailand and then Pune because we could not use our training field in Chennai because of the rains. They looked after us for a week and then we beat them twice. I don't think they were very happy with that decision," said Gregory.

Jeje Lalpekhlua Chennaiyin FC

The 63-year-old also shared his opinion on Robbie Keane's departure and ATK's misfortune with injuries. 

"Robbie Keane has really shown in India what a quality player he is with his ability and his talent. I think he helped to get the players around him as well. He a very inspirational footballer. I do believe that he could be coming back relatively soon. So he might come back and still play a part in ATK's season."

"They've lost some very, very good footballers. For one reason or another, it hasn't worked as well as they wanted it. Obviously, Teddy wanted it to work this season. He's lost a lot of players to injuries and not been able to pick his best team," opined Gregory.

But the former Aston Villa manager seemed jubilant with his medical staff as Chennaiyin have not struggled with injuries in this season.

"We've got a fantastic medical department. My head of sports science Niall Clark keeps everybody fit. Literally, we have 25 people to choose from and left three behind because they weren't going to be a part of the match tomorrow. I've even had problems choosing players for the bench. It's a testament to the way we look after our players with games coming thick and fast," praised Gregory.

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The former QPR player also backed his team's strategy of not looking to sign marquee players.

"We have seen the problems of Robbie Keane at ATK and Dimitar Berbatov at Kerala Blasters. We don't have any marquee players as such. We went down a different route. And we believe we've been vindicated."

"We've got some great personalities within our squad. Even off the field, honestly. They get on amazingly with each other, no egos, be it foreigners or Indians. And my staff will back me up here. And that, I believe, helps us win football matches. Whether we're playing at home or away. There's a real sense of togetherness. We stick together and that has helped us to win football matches," signed off Gregory.