Two-time winners Chennaiyin FC will begin the 2021-22 Indian Super League campaign against Hyderabad FC here on Tuesday with a new coach, new captain and renewed hopes of a turnaround after a poor run in the previous season.
The team has undergone a revamp. Apart from new coach Bozidar Bandovic, CFC have also signed five new foreign players along with some promising Indian talent and will expect to start on a strong note after having secured only three wins in the 2020-21 season.
However, it is easier said than done with a confident Hyderabad side expected to be a well prepared and tough opponent.
In an early jolt for Chennaiyin, they will be without the services of the influential midfielder Rafael Crivallero as he had 'pain' and is being monitored by the team's medical staff.
"He has pain. The medical staff are monitoring him and we are 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," CFC head coach Bandovic said at a virtual media interaction ahead of the opener.
He further said the team was well prepared and that he was not looking too far ahead, preferring to take it game by game.
"I would go game by game. First game first. We will like to go game by game and try to be in the top four," the coach said when asked about the team's strategy.
The club's assistant coach Syed Sabir Pasha had said during a recent interaction that they were confident of an improved show and felt the squad appeared to be settled heading into the tournament.
New captain Anirudh Thapa has been a key member of the CFC 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.