CHENNAI: It has been true for just about every match Chennaiyin FC have played over the last month and Friday is no exception! Two of the teams perched atop the Indian Super League table will clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday, when Marco Materazzi’s men take on FC Goa.
That Chennai have featured in a number of top-of-the-table clashes is testament, not only to their consistency, but also to their rivals’ lack of it. Take Goa’s fluctuating fortunes for example. Zico’s men were bottom of the table with no respite in sight, six matches ago. Two draws and four wins later, they find themselves up in second, a win away from semifinal qualification.
The flip-side for Zico’s men is that it could all go wrong faster than it was set right. Atletico de Kolkata, Pune City FC and Kerala
Blasters are all in with a chance of overtaking Goa. Failure to beat Chennai would mean a tough task away from home at mighty Kolkata in their final league game.
Chennai, on the other hand, have no such worries. Qualification for the final four was assured with the win over Kerala on Sunday. One more win would see them scale an unassailable peak in standings. If that win were to come on Friday, their final home game against Delhi would be of mere academic interest, putting Materazzi in a position to give some of his tired troops some much needed rest.
While Chennai have been unbeatable at home so far, Goa will be no easy proposition. Pires & co have topped their rivals in every department so far, except the vital two — most goals and most wins. Goa has attempted more shots on goal, kept more clean sheets, fired more crosses into the box, put in more tackles, kept more possession and strung together more tackles. Finishing is where Zico has been let down by his team but it is clear that, on their day, Goa can beat just about anyone.
Chennai will still be missing their marquee star Elano, while Alessandro Nesta too will not be available. Materazzi though can take heart from how some of the local stars have stepped up to fill the gaps. Denson Devadas, in particular, has been impressive in recent weeks and the defensive midfielder has currently put in more tackles than anyone.