Chennai: A confident Chennaiyin FC will start as favourites when they take on ATK in a fourth round Indian Super League clash (ISL) clash at the Jawaharlal Stadium here on Thursday.
The 2015 champions started their campaign with a 2-3 defeat at home at the hands of FC Goa whom they had incidentally downed in the final two years ago to win the crown.
But since then, John Gregory’s side have stitched together two successive wins starting with a 3-0 thrashing of NorthEast United FC here followed by a solitary goal triumph away to Pune.
Brazilian central midfielder Raphael Augusto has netted two goals for the hosts so far and has been in fine form.
What might worry Gregory a bit is that his strikers haven’t got goals but the Englishman said the other day that he was happy with Jeje Lalpekhlua’s performance against Pune.
“In all honesty, that was his best game for us so far. He was on his own a lot up there. The goals will come if he continues to work like that,” the 63-year old former England midfielder had said after the game.
Gregory though, was not happy with the way his team played and that would be something the former Queens Park Rangers player would like to work on.
Against Pune, two former ATK players played their part in the only goal of the match. Captain Henrique Sereno scored while Jaime Gavilan set it up for him.
Defending champions ATK, on the other hand, are winless after three games and have been dogged by a spate of injuries to key players.
Teddy Sheringham’s charges started off with a goalless draw on the road against Kerala Blasters, a result they repeated against newbies Jamshedpur FC in their third outing, and lost 1-4 at home to FC Pune City.
The Kolkata-based franchise did not get the services of marquee signing Robbie Keane who was injured for the first three games.
While Keane has an outside chance of starting on Thursday, midfield mainstay Eugeneson Lyngdoh is doubtful for not only the next game but the rest of the season.
The former Bengaluru FC man picked up a knee injury during the club’s round three match against Jamshedpur FC last Friday and was seen limping out of the ground at the stroke of half time.
Jayesh Rane is still injured while English midfielder Carl Becker has also been ruled out for the season.
ATK lack the cutting edge in the final third with Finnish striker Njazi Kuqi not being able to deliver the goods up front.
Against Chennai, they will have to work harder as they showed great resolve at the back halting the likes of in-form Pune frontmen Emiliano Alfaro and last season’s top scorer Marcelino.
Chennaiyin and ATK have a rivalry that started in 2015 when the two sides met in the semifinal.
Chennaiyin thrashed the inaugural champions 3-0 here but succumbed to a 1-2 reversal in Kolkata to go through on away goals and set up a final date with Goa.
Overall, in the eight meetings so far between the two sides, ATK have won thrice to Chennaiyin’s one victory. Four matches have ended in draws.
Chennaiyn currently sit second in the points table with six points from three games. ATK have only two points to show for from three outings, remaining last in the 10-team points table.