Freezing Kashmir to test Chennai City’s Character as push for Hero I-League title continues

Big fight between table top Chennai City FC and Snow Leopards Real Kashmir FC

By AIFF Media Team

New Delhi, Jan 27: Leaders of the ongoing 12th Hero I-League, Chennai City FC, take on local side Real Kashmir FC on Monday, January 28, 2019, at Srinagar’s TRC ground, in a game that could in the final calculations, determine the eventual winner of the league.

The all-important encounter, which resumes top-flight football in the valley after a one and a half month break, kicks off at 2 pm IST.

There is biting cold in Srinagar and images coming out in media reports have shown the field of play covered in snow for the past couple of days.

Chennai’s Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas, who has shepherded the side brilliantly throughout the season, will be hoping his team acclimatises quickly after a long two-day travel and at the very least, go back without being beaten.

Speaking to the press on matchday eve, Akbar said, “I think its ok. The altitude at Aizawl is higher, so it was tougher there. The support staff and the players on the bench will suffer from cold, not the players who are running. One thing about us is that we are not here to win the title. We have just come here to play one match that’s scheduled tomorrow. Real Kashmir are very competitive. It’ll be a tough game for us. They have won a title last year. They are competitive defensively.”

The only loss that Chennai have suffered this season in their 13 games has ironically been to their Monday hosts in the first leg played at Coimbatore. Kashmir put it across the table-toppers on that occasion, courtesy a Koffi Tetteh strike late in the second half.

What helped Kashmir in that game against Chennai was their physicality and the clever way in which Scottish coach David Robertson made his squad use it to disrupt the rhythm of Chennai’s star Spanish midfielders and wingers.

However, Pedro Manzi, Chennai’s top marksman this season, with 13 goals, was missing from that encounter due to injury and his return to the team as well as to sublime goal-scoring form will make David Robertson wary.

The affable coach, however, seemed upbeat in the pre-game chat saying, “It’ll be a tough game. Chennai are a very tough opponent and they are the most consistent team. They might end up being the league champions. We know that it’s going to be a tough game but we all are looking forward to it. We were away from home for a long time, around 45 days. So we all are happy coming back home. It’s the second game between us so everyone has a fair idea about the opponents. We have got to be the best to match up to them.”

It is also a clash between the league’s best attack and best defence in a way. Chennai have the best scoring record of the league with 31 goals to their name, while Kashmir have conceded a miserly seven with seven clean-sheets, by far the best defensive record of the league.

Given the conditions, acclimatisation will surely play a huge role in the final outcome and Chennai will do well to anything away from the game.

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