Chennaiyin FC will begin their Indian Super League 2020-21 campaign with an eye on the title once again after missing the opportunity by a whisker last season. Chennaiyin saw a dramatic overturn in the second half of the league stage after Owen Coyle was appointed as the coach and went right to the final before falling to ATK. This time Coyle has moved to Jamshedpur FC but Chennaiyin have experienced Hungarian Csaba Laszlo at the helm.
Chennaiyin are also one of the only three clubs out of 11 in the ISL, who do not have a single Spaniard in their squad. East Bengal and NorthEast United FC are the only other teams to have no Spanish player even though the latter have a Spanish coach. Chennaiyin have made some off beat signings with Bosnia international and players from Slovakia and Tajikistan as well and may spring a surprise on teams that look stronger on paper.
Chennaiyin FC look strong in the forwards department. Both their foreign signings in Esmael Goncalves and Jakub Sylvestr have 75 and 101 career goals, respectively, under their belt. On top of that Goncalves knows Asia having played in Uzbekistan, Iran, Japan and Saudi Arabia and is sure to make a difference with all of that big experience.
Apart from that Chennaiyin's midfield also looks good with the likes of Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rafael Crivellaro and Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev. Crivellaro was a standout player for Chennaiyin last season and is expected to combine well with Fatkhuloev, who has come to the ISL from Tajikistan.
Chennaiyin can come up a bit short in the goalkeeping department with Vishal Kaith set to be in the starting line-up. Even though Kaith is a decent goalkeeper but he is not exactly known for keeping clean sheets. In 41 ISL games, he has kept only 11 clean sheets. Also, he has made an average of 12.39 passes per game with an accuracy of 51.96 per cent. Apart from Kaith, Chennaiyin have Karanjit Singh, Revanth BY and Samik Mitra and that doesn't say much about the bench strength.
Apart from that, they have two strong centre-backs in Enes Sipovic and Eli Sabia but if they get injured, Chennaiyin might not have adequate replacements.
ISL 2019-20 PERFORMANCE
Last year, Chennaiyin finished runners-up after losing 3-1 in the final to ATK. However, it was an achievement in itself for Chennaiyin to reach the final given the kind of first half they had. Chennaiyin were at the bottom end of the league table when John Gregory resigned and Coyle was appointed. After mixed results initially, Coyle guided Chennaiyin from 9th to fourth place and into the playoffs. They then defeated FC Goa on aggregate in the semi-finals to reach the final. Chennaiyin's Nerijus Valskis was also a joint-top scorer of ISL 2019-20 while Chhangte and Crivellaro accounted for seven goals each.
MOST NOTABLE NEW SIGNINGS
Chennaiyin have quite a few interesting signings. Unlike most of the ISL clubs, Chennaiyin have not gone for the Spanish flavour once again but have instead got a good mix in. They have ISL's first-ever player from Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sipovic and given his experience in six nations, including 19 games in Asia (Saudi Arabia and Qatar), he should be a solid presence at the back.
Also two forwards in Goncalves and Sylvestr with the former having extensive Asia experience should be firesome. Fatkhuloev is also an extremely interesting signing from Tajikistan. He has good club and national team experience and would be one to watch out for.
HISTORY IN ISL
Chennaiyin FC are two-time winners of the ISL and have finished runners-up once, which was last season. Out of the six season, Chennaiyin have made the playoffs four times but they have also had two dismal seasons in 2016 (finished second-last) and 2018-19 (finished last).
CHANCES/PREDICTION IN ISL 2020-21
Chennaiyin FC have what looks like quite a balanced squad. There are teams who have more firepower at the top like ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC but Chennaiyin FC are likely to give a good fight for the playoffs. They can be expected to be finish fourth and make it to the playoffs.
Head coach: Csaba Laszlo
Goalkeepers: Karanjit Singh, Revanth BY, Samik Mitra, Vishal Kaith
Defenders: Aqib Nawab, Balaji Ganesan, Deepak Tangri, Eli Sabia, Enes Sipovic, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Reagan Singh, Lalchhuanmawia, Remi
Midfielders: Abhijit Sarkar, Anirudh Thapa, Dhanpal Ganesh, Edwin Vanspaul, Memo Mouro, Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev, Germanpreet Singh, Thoi Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Pandian Sinivasan, Rafael Crivellaro
Forwards: Aman Chhetri, Esmael Goncalves, Jakub Sylvestr, Rahim Ali