Kerala Blasters will look to extend their unbeaten run to five matches when they welcome their Southern rivals Chennaiyin FC in their Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday.
Chennaiyin are not yet assured of qualification for the semifinals but even a loss will keep them among the top four. However, both teams have only two matches left.
The previous match between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw after goals in the 89th and 90th minutes from Rene Mihelic and CK Vineeth respectively. But tomorrow neither would be happy except a win and full points from this encounter.
"It was a tough schedule for us to play games and then recover for a day before jumping onto the plane again. We're delighted with the number of points we've got from these last four matches. I didn't change the team that much so it has been a huge workload for them and says everything about my squad. We're where we are because of our work ethic. Now we come into this game with an unusual four-five days of rest and we are in very good shape," Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory said -- almost as if sounding a warning shot for Kerala.
But this is hardly the same Kerala side that they faced early on.
"They were struggling when we played them last time, individually and as a team. But with the new coach (David James) coming in with a positive attitude and has totally transformed the team," he said.
James himself sounded pretty confident and said that there were initial question marks when he joined Kerala for the second time in his career.
"The experience I had as a head coach was also a matter of question but from day one it was always about how Kerala Blasters is about everyone involved with the club and not just the players and the head coach. So without wanting to make it sound too easy, it was still easy to instil confidence in everyone with a support staff like mine," he said.
On the upcoming game, a crucial one at that, James said that he expected an energetic match.
"We expect them to win the game and get over the line. For us, we have to win the game and aim for six points (out of two games)," he said, intending that both sides will certainly go on an all-out attack.