Bengaluru, November 22: With a new coach and captain at the helm, two-time champions Chennaiyin FC kick off their Indian Super Indian (ISL) 2021-22 campaign against Hyderabad FC with renewed hope at the Bambolin Athletic Stadium in Goa on Tuesday (November 23).
After finishing a dismal eighth in the previous ISL season, the Marina Machans overhauled the squad completely right from the top with experienced Montenegrin Bozidar Bandovic roped in as new coach and India international Anirudh Thapa being handed over the captain's armband.
Chennaiyin FC was one of the busiest team in the pre-season transfer window with them having signed as many as five new foreign players, along with some promising Indian talent.
Bandovic was candid while admitting that he would prefer to take it one match at a time, instead of rushing up things too far quite early in the new season.
"I would go game by game. First game first. We'll like to go game by game and try to be in the top four," Bandovic said at the pre-match virtual press conference.
The club's assistant coach Syed Sabir Pasha had said in a recent virtual interaction that they were confident of an improved show and felt the squad appeared to be settled heading into ISL's eighth season.
New captain Thapa has been a key member of the Chennaiyin FC squad for a few years now and will look to lead from the front, hoping the new foreign recruits and the Indian stars pull their weight as the team aims to bounce back.
Chennaiyin have signed a handful of foreign players including Polish striker Lukasz Gikiewicz, who is expected to sharpen the attack and bring in goals, which the team missed in the season gone by.
Hyderabad FC, on the other hand, will aim to break into the play-offs after having missed out narrowly last time.
Coach Manuel Márquez Roca will be hoping the team continues the good run and the signing of Bartholomew Ogbeche from Mumbai City FC gives the forward line more teeth.
Ogbeche, Edu Garcia and Juanan will be the key players for the team and their performance will have a bearing on the fortunes in a long season. Marquez's men got the better of CFC in both the matches last season and Ogbeche & Co will look to cash in on a rather weak opposition defence.
A cracker of a contest in the offing and Thapa said he was looking forward to a good game, "Everyone has to guide the younger players, not only me. Everybody who's experienced will guide the young players and the other players as well because that's how we'll improve - by helping each other on and off the field."
Ahead of the kick off, CFC have a couple of injury concerns with influential midfielder Rafael Crivallero and Germanpreet Singh doubtful for the opening game.
"Rafael (Crivallero) is having a pain and is being monitored by the team's medical staff. We're trying to find what the problem is. He trained a couple of days ago, but had to walk off. Germanpreet Singh is out as well for tomorrow's game," Bandovic said.
The match in Goa kicks off at 7.30pm IST and will be shown on Star Sports 2 SD/HD channels.