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Chennaiyin FC begin unique ISL season with Jamshedpur FC challenge

Chennaiyin FC vice-captain and midfielder Anirudh Thapa in training. (Photo courtesy: Chennaiyin FC)
Chennaiyin FC vice-captain and midfielder Anirudh Thapa in training. (Photo courtesy: Chennaiyin FC)

Chennaiyin FC commence their 2020-21 Indian Super League journey with an away fixture against Jamshedpur FC at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco on Tuesday November 24. In a season like no other, without the fans in attendance, CFC will aim to draw inspiration from their run to previous edition’s final and go one better this time.

New Head Coach Csaba László from Hungary has galvanized the squad with versatile additions, especially in the foreign contingent following the recruitment of solid domestic full-backs Reagan Singh and Lalchhuanmawia Fanai.

After retaining the influential Brazilian duo of playmaker Rafael Crivellaro (7 goals & 8 assists in ISL 2019-20) and defender Eli Sabiá with the former now assigned captaincy and the latter vice-captaincy, their versatile compatriot Memo Moura has joined the ranks after three years at Jamshedpur FC. A 6’6” man-mountain in Bosnian central defender Enes Sipović is set to partner Eli at the back, while forwards Isma Gonçalves and Jakub Sylvestr are among the attackers. Completing the overseas line-up is Tajikistan’s most-capped international Fatkhulo Fatkhulloev, who can play on either flank.

More importantly, László has been vocal about the quality of CFC’s Indian contingent along with the exuberance of youth. Anirudh Thapa’s consistent rise and leadership potential has been rewarded with vice-captaincy at the age of 22, while László has played up the involvement of the likes of defender Deepak Tangri and striker Rahim Ali who have impressed along with the club’s other young guns in pre-season. Rahim also netted the winner against Odisha FC in a pre-season friendly. And with the squad in Goa comprising five developmental players (those born on or after January 1, 2000), László will have the welcome headache of competition for places with youngsters pushing for game time to aid their progress.

The encounter against Jamshedpur on opening day promises to be a tantalizing one, especially for fans watching back home, with the opponents now led by László’s predecessor Owen Coyle. Former striker Nerijus Valskis and defender Laldinliana Renthlei have also made the switch, meaning these sub-plots will surely make it a riveting watch for supporters and neutrals alike.

In terms of previous encounters, CFC were unbeaten against JFC last season, with Owen Coyle’s first game in-charge ending in a 1-1 draw away, with the reverse fixture a 4-1 win for the Marina Machans with Valskis netting twice along with a goal each from Andre Schembri and Lallianzuala Chhangte.

“I believe everyone will go into the match prepared, we also know the kind of team they (Jamshedpur FC) are. The most important thing is that our boys are prepared and are confident. That they are motivated. We have to go out and make the right decisions on the pitch. The past connections between both clubs won’t affect the match,” said László during a virtual pre-match press interaction when quizzed about the familiar faces in the Jamshedpur camp.

New CFC skipper Crivellaro was alongside László for the media interaction. When asked how the team will approach this campaign after last season’s thrilling ride, he said, “Every season is different. It is difficult to repeat feats like last season. What we need is stability, and for the players coming in to be balanced. We have to do well in all areas of the pitch. And games will come thick and fast, with everyone having to play a key role.”

(Chennaiyin FC)