Kerala Blasters vs Chennaiyin: Preview and Prediction
Last season’s finalists Kerala Blasters have been made to wait to qualify for the playoffs and Ivan Vukomanovic’s side will look to inch closer to the next round and strengthen their grip on third place in the league standings when they host Chennaiyin on Tuesday, for a feisty Southern derby.
The Marina Machans are currently in eighth place on the league table, with 18 points from 16 matches, and with just 4 matches remaining, all of the upcoming fixtures will be must-win games for Thomas Brdaric’s side to find their way into the playoffs.
The two-time ISL champs have struggled defensively all season, and they face another stern test in the Blasters, who have taken 28 points from 16 matches. Only 5 points separate the Kochi-based club in third place from Odisha in the sixth position. With a lot riding on every single game, it’s all in or nothing for the Marina Machans.
The Blasters faced a narrow 0-1 defeat at the hands of East Bengal in their previous fixture, while Brdaric’s men were held to a 2-2 draw by the Kalinga Warriors. Vukomanovic’s side has played just one draw all season recording 9 wins and 6 defeats.
On the other hand, the Marina Machans have won just 4 matches all season, playing 6 stalemates and have lost as many games. The Tuskers began the campaign on a mixed note, and picked up steam mid-way through the campaign, however, their momentum has tailed off in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the two-time ISL champs have struggled for consistency all season, struggling to find the back of the net, while they have also been leaking goals. Thankfully, Abdenasser El Khayati is back to full fitness and he will try to find his scoring boots once again to push his side into playoff contention.
As far as the past record is concerned, both these clubs have locked horns on 19 occasions with the Blasters enjoying 5 wins while the Marina Machans have claimed 6 wins. 8 meetings between these clubs have ended all square. The reverse fixture earlier this season ended all square at 1-1 with Vincy Barreto cancelling Sahal Abdul Samad’s opener.
Vukomanovic has opted for a 4-4-2 formation throughout the season however, he opted for a 3-1-4-2 formation for the last fixture against East Bengal, and since that didn’t yield a positive result, the Serbian is likely to revert back to his tried and tested system. Karanjit Singh has started the past two matches, and he is likely to continue in goal.
Harmanjot Khabra and Jessel Carneiro are likely to start as full-backs, with Víctor Mongil and Hormipam Ruivah as central defenders. Jeakson Singh and Adrian Luna are expected to start in the central midfield, flanked by Rahul KP and Bryce Miranda. Apostolos Giannou and Dimitrios Diamantakos will continue to lead the line.
Brdaric meanwhile has stayed loyal to his favored 4-2-3-1 and the return of El Khayati has further boosted the Marina Machans.
Samik Mitra is expected to continue in goal with Edwin Sydney Vanspaul and Aakash Sangwan filling the full-back positions. Fallou Diagne and Gurmukh Singh will marshal the defense with Julius Duker and Anirudh Thapa as the creative fulcrum double pivot while Ninthoinganba Meetei, El Khayati, and Vincy Barretto will provide attacking impetus to Petar Sliskovic.
Predicted Starting XIs
Kerala Blasters (4-4-2): Karanjit Singh; Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Hormipam Ruivah, Víctor Mongil, Jessel Carneiro; Rahul KP, Jeakson Singh, Adrian Luna, Bryce Miranda; Apostolos Giannou, Dimitrios Diamantakos.
Chennaiyin (4-2-3-1): Samik Mitra; Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, Fallou Diagne, Gurmukh Singh, Aakash Sangwan; Julius Duker, Anirudh Thapa; Ninthoinganba Meetei, Abdenasser El Khayati, Vincy Barretto; Petar Sliskovic.
Vukomanovic’s side will certainly fancy their chances against the Marina Machans who face an uphill task to make it through to the playoffs. Brdaric’s side will have the comfort of home support but despite this, they will have their task cutout. The Blasters however will look to inch closer to the playoffs, and a win would further boost their credentials.