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ISL 2022-23: Time running out for Chennaiyin FC’s playoff challenge ahead of clash against Kerala Blasters FC

Chennaiyin FC will be wary that their next fixture against regional rivals Kerala Blasters FC in the ISL 2022-23 on Tuesday.

football isl 2022 23 time running out for chennaiyin fc playoff challenge ahead of clash against kerala blasters fc snt
First Published Feb 7, 2023, 8:00 AM IST

Chennaiyin FC will be wary that their next fixture against regional rivals Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday could be their last chance at staying in the playoff race in this season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23. 

The visitors are currently on a streak where they have only lost two of their last seven games but have not managed any victories. This included a 2-2 tie with Odisha FC last week that kept them in eighth position overall, five points behind Odisha FC in seventh place and, as of Sunday, seven points behind Bengaluru FC in sixth place, against whom they still have a game remaining.

Thomas Brdaric, the head coach, is well aware that anything less than a victory over the Blasters will force his squad to rely on the other contenders faltering in the next three contests. But he will be hoping they can go a step further and maintain the flame until the end with the return of talisman Abdenasser El Khayati into the starting XI, who scored against Odisha FC before being taken off.

"Of course we are motivated all the time, because we are a team trying to learn in this season to get a strong future," Bradaric said. "We need competitions like the game tomorrow for experience. We had some bad luck in the last few matches but tomorrow is another chance. It's another opponent, and they've almost qualified for the playoffs [while] it is still our target. In these four games we'll try our best to reach sixth place," he added.

On the other hand, as the league stage moves into its final stage, Kerala Blasters FC would be anxious to add more consistency to their season. The Blasters are now in third place due to an incredible run in which they lost just two points in November and December.

After that stretch of games, though, their form has left them. The Blasters have lost three of their last four games, most notably to East Bengal FC last week, and have only achieved one win in those contests. A victory for FC Goa on Monday might prevent them from starting their match against Chennaiyin FC in third position, even if they still hold a slim lead in the standings for the automatic qualification spots. Their just three goals during this period, all of which were scored by Dimitrios Diamantakos, will be one of their main worries.

"It was a disappointing performance in the way that there was a big chance that we could make the situation easier, and we failed to do so," head coach Ivan Vukomanovic said about last week's result. "We were talking in the dressing room over the last few days that if you're in that position, you must show more discipline and motivation than your opponent [...] You have to show that if you want to be top," he added.

These two teams have met on 19 occasions in the Hero ISL, with eight games being drawn. With six wins, Chennaiyin FC are marginally ahead in the overall head-to-head, but haven't managed a win against the Blasters since their double in the 2019 season. 

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