Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory stated that no team in the Indian Super League (ISL) can be taken lightly ahead of their tie against Mumbai City FC on Sunday.
He cited the example of NorthEast United putting up a strong fight against Bengaluru FC, who have been billed favourites to win the ISL this season. However, the Blues picked up three points, courtesy of the second half strike by Miku.
“We expect a tough game everywhere. We saw NorthEast United FC last night and I was expecting them to get at least a point last night if not three (against Bengaluru FC). Every game is difficult and brings different kinds of problems to the coaches and the players. There are no easy games. We are expecting a very tough game against Mumbai City here,” he explained.
“We had a poor 45 minutes in the first match against FC Goa but since then we have managed to put a couple of the results together. We desperately want to keep it going,” he added.
Raphael Augusto was not named in the 18 against ATK in their midweek clash and Gregory mentioned that the Brazilian midfielder is back in the reckoning for a start.
“Yes, Raphael is available. We didn’t take a risk with him the other night (game against ATK). We have 18 matches in the season and if you give your players an overload at the start of the season, you could lose them in the longer season. So we thought to give him a rest. But he’s back now and raring to go,” he said.
Jeje Lalpekhlua scored a couple of goals and returned to form in style in the last game. The former Aston Villa coach believes that the former Mohun Bagan striker wasn’t given many goal scoring opportunities in the earlier games which is one of the primary reasons as to why he wasn’t among goals.
“The goals must have relieved Jeje (Lalpekhlua). The fact that he hadn’t scored till his fourth match was very unusual for him. Fortunately, the others had been scoring which took the pressure off him. The fact that Raphael (Augusto) scored helped Jeje relax a bit. We spoke to him and told him to carry on the field. He has been working really, really hard but probably hasn’t had the chances that he’s had in the past,” he reasoned.
Some of the coaches in the ISL have been vocal about the tight schedule however, Gregory believes that if one can rotate one’s squad so as to keep everyone fresh and fit, there wouldn’t be much concern.
“This will be our third game since last Sunday. We have four more games this month with one of them being at home and the other three are all travel of which Jamshedpur will take a day to reach. It’s tough when all the games are thick and fast. ATK have a 10 day break now; we too had 10 days break after we play NorthEast United; FC Pune City too had to play four games in 10 days, I think.
“So everybody has to deal with it. It’s not ideal but if you want to be in the play-offs you need to prepare yourselves to be organized and be game-ready. This is why I’m pleased with the squad as they have all managed to keep fit. We don’t have any injuries and I literally have a full squad to pick from, which is very beneficial when you are playing games within 10 days,” he signed off.