Chennaiyin FC take on southern rivals Bengaluru FC at the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Friday in the Indian Super League.
Both teams have played twice so far, with CFC registering a victory and draw each, while BFC are winless following consecutive stalemates.
In terms of team news, Chennaiyin FC Head Coach Csaba Laszlo confirmed that left-back Jerry Lalrinzuala will start in place of Chhuantea Fanai, the latter substituted in the previous encounter against Kerala Blasters with injury.
The fixture between Chennaiyin and Bengaluru has become a huge rivalry since BFC entered the ISL fold in 2017. The final that season was a closely contested affair that CFC won 3-2 on Bengaluru’s turf to lift a second ISL title.
In the head-to-head battle so far, both clubs have won three apiece with one draw being played out last season. It promises to be yet another intense encounter, as the likes of Anirudh Thapa, Rafael Crivellaro and Lallianzuala Chhangte look to build on a solid start to the season, aiming to make it two wins out of three.
Chennaiyin’s forward line will be looking to make amends against BFC, having failed to score against KBFC last time out. Striker Jakub Sylvestr especially will want to put his penalty miss behind him and bounce back strongly. At the same time, goalkeeper Vishal Kaith & Co. will be hoping to add to a first clean sheet of the season.
Head Coach Csaba Laszlo was in an optimistic mood during the pre-match press conference, fully aware of the added significance of the upcoming match. “It is a special game and also like a derby for us. We want to win and will do everything possible to win this game. If we could collect the 3 points, we could stabilize our position in the table,” the Hungarian gaffer said.
Laszlo was joined by influential CFC midfielder and vice-captain Anirudh Thapa, who commented on the experience of playing without fans, especially ahead of such a high-profile encounter. “It is really different (to play in an empty stadium without fans) and less fun. It was an amazing feeling, the electrifying stadium with the fans in full voice. This year as they aren’t there, it isn’t much fun, but we know that they are watching us so obviously we need to give our best in every game,” Thapa said.
This game would have been a showstopper if fans were in the stadium, given the history between both clubs and the vociferous nature of the supporters, who’ve sparred off the pitch on multiple instances. For now, the banter and argument will find its place on social media as CFC and BFC fight it out on the pitch on Friday night.