Pune :Forced to shift their base in Pune in the aftermath of Chennai floods, Chennaiyin FC will also be handicapped by the absence of some influential players as they take on defending champions Atletico de Kolkata in their ‘home’ leg of the semifinals of the Indian Super League football tomorrow.
Marquee player Elano Blumer and defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo are suspended for the semifinals first leg after accumulating four yellow cards during the league phase, while midfielder Raphael Augusto injured himself to be out of the tournament.
Chennaiyin manager Marco Materazzi admitted that these players were important but suggested there were others who could still do the job for him.
“They are crucial players but I think at this point all our players have shown they deserve to play,” Materazzi said during the pre-match media briefing.
“Iit would be crazy to think I can replace a player like Rafa, the best player in the whole of ISL,” he added.
Chennaiyin have never won a match against Atletico de Kolkata in the past four times they have faced each other over the two editions but Materazzi remained unperturbed.
“Last year, we won two games against Kerala (Blasters) and we all saw what happened in the semifinals. Semifinal is a different game. Kolkata have an excellent team, excellent coach and the right attitude. This will be a good game,” said Italian Materazzi.
With some important players missing, the burden of carrying the team forward in the first leg would fall on Stiven Mendoza.
Atletico de Kolkata and coach Antonio Lopez Habas have been there and done that having won the inaugural edition last year. Asked whether there was pressure on Kolkata to repeat their success, Habas remained non-challant.
“No pressure, absolutely no pressure,” said Habas.
“Chennaiyin FC are a very difficult team for us. They are strong and competitive. We have to play with intelligence,” he said.
Atletico de Kolkata’s two victories over Chennaiyin FC this season’s league stage should give them an upperhand in the semifinal clash. Kolkata never really looked troubled in both their matches but the semifinal, as Materazzi pointed out earlier, could be a different ball game altogether.
“For me, it’s a 50-50 match. I don’t know (the result), it’s football. I can talk about this after the game,” said Habas.
Kolkata have the luxury of playing the crucial reverse fixture at home on December 16. Asked if he would take a draw in the away clash and then go all out for a victory in front of their home crowd, Habas seemed less than impressed.
“There are no advantages (from the first leg). We will still have 90 minutes more after this game,” said the Spanish coach.