KOCHI: Even before a ball was kicked in the new season, Chennaiyin FC made news after the announcement of Anirudh Thapa as the captain. Under one of India’s leading footballers, Chennaiyin is looking to the 23-year-old to be their leading light for the future after a forgettable few seasons where they looked lost. A new head coach is also at the helm with Bozidar Bandovic expected to take the former champions back to their glory days.
The Marina Machans start their new campaign against the young and exuberant Hyderabad FC at the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Tuesday. After a few years where the two-time champions saw other sides dominate the league and overtaking them, it remains to be seen if they are genuine title contenders this time out.
Chennaiyin has been a force to reckon with in the ISL, but having struggled to mount any serious challenge for the title in recent seasons, their head coach does not want to plan too far ahead and is primarily focused on the assignment against Hyderabad.
“In my coaching career, we go game by game. So for us, the most important thing is the first game tomorrow. After that, we can think about the next ones. Of course, this club has set the targets by themselves.
When you come into a team which has been champions, it’s always high targets and high expectations. We want to go game by game and be in the top-four,” said the 52-year-old ahead of the match on Monday.
In a bid to freshen up the squad, Chennaiyin made five new foreign signings with only Rafael Crivellaro getting retained from last season.
Besides the foreigners, a lot will be expected from the likes of Thapa and Lallianzuala Chhangte who are now senior members of the dressing room. The likes of Jobby Justin and Naryan Das could also form the Indian core for the side and take leadership roles within the side to support Thapa.