Chennaiyin FC played a goalless draw against Minerva Punjab in the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup 2019 on Wednesday. With their next encounter against NorthEast United in Bhubaneswar, Chennaiyin coach John Gregory has shifted his focus to the 2019 Super Cup.
"We haven't had a great deal of time since our AFC Cup match the other night (in Ahmedabad). We had one day to recover after the match and then we've been traveling. We're back here in Bhubaneshwar and obviously now our focus will be on the match against NorthEast tomorrow (Sunday). The boys are ready. I've got a fit squad, which has always been a benefit for me over the last couple of seasons," he mentioned.
However, the Englishman wanted to forget the disastrous ISL season his team endured. But he heaped praise on Sunday's opponents.
"The more important fixtures were the ISL fixtures this season. That's really where you are judged as a player and a coach over the course of the season. We obviously had a poor ISL season and NorthEast had a fantastic season. They qualified for the play-offs. The [NorthEast] coach and players deserve a lot of credit," said the Chennaiyin manager.
Given that NorthEast United's Eelco Schattorie claimed that he effectively has only 13 players to his disposal ahead of the tie between the two sides, Gregory refused to consider it to be an easy game against a team who beat them twice in the ISL.
"This will be our second game that we're actually playing in the Super Cup. We got a walk-over (against Aizawl FC) in one of the games and managed to beat Mumbai [City FC 2-0] in the last game. We lost twice to Mumbai this year and didn't score a goal against them but we managed to score two against them [in the Super Cup] and got through.
"Even if they (NorthEast) have only 13 fit players, they represent a difficult match for us. They might still be the favourites," he stated.
Analysing the problems Chennaiyin FC has faced in the goalscoring department, the former Aston Villa coach hopes that Jeje Lalpekhlua and CK Vineeth combine well up front.
"It's been a trouble all season. We lacked a regular goalscorer. The top four who qualified for the [ISL] play-offs have all got an outstanding goalscorer in their team. This was one area where we didn't do particularly well this year.
"Jeje has now scored two goals in three appearances. I'm hoping he continues with his good form. CK (Vineeth) scored a couple of goals since he's been with us. They need a little time playing together. It's the hardest job in the world to find a goalscorer and get someone scoring regularly," Gregory expounded.
"It wasn't much of a problem last year. Everybody was scoring for us last year, even though Jeje ended up scoring nine goals. It was very well spread out among the team. We're hoping that things will improve in the Super Cup and the AFC Cup," he concluded.