Chennai City can seal it with a win

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The side takes on Churchill in the penultimate round

Chennai City FC is on the cusp of glory. After a forgettable last year (finished eighth), the club, helmed by the redoubtable new head coach Abdul Nawas, has made a fantastic turnaround this season.

City needs (on 40 points) just one win from its last two matches to bag the crown.

The master strategist Nawas is more than eager to script a victory in its penultimate I-League contest against Churchill Brothers to be held at the Tilak Maidan Stadium here on Friday, and clinch the title, with a game to spare.

Beyond expectation

All Nawas wanted, before the start of the tournament, was to finish in the top-four. “What we’ve achieved has been far and beyond what we expected. Realistically, we wanted to be in the top-six and hopefully in top-four,” he said at the pre-match press conference here on Thursday.

Nawas gave full credit to the quartet of Spanish players for integrating with the Indian players. According to him, it happened mainly because of the humility displayed by foreigners. “They (Spain players) were willing to let go of their egos,” he said, while admitting the huge improvements made by the local players.

For the record, City’s Pedro Manzi is the top goal-scorer with 19, followed by Churchill’s Willis Plaza at 18.

Not an easy team

On taking on Churchill Brothers, the Singaporean coach said, “they are not an easy team. They have a good bunch of local players who are so composed on the ball,” said Nawas. In their previous match in Coimbatore, Churchill held City to a 2-2 draw.

Churchill’s Romanian coach Petre Gigiu said City has the first chance to win [the I-League Trophy]. Refusing to analyse the reasons for his team’s downfall, Gigiu said the away loss to Neroca was what started the decline. Add to it injuries to a few key players. In the clash against City, Churchill will be without the services of Richard Costa, Rowilson Rodriguez, James Kithan and N. Mohanraj.

Gigiu, nevertheless, said he was proud of his players. “From being way below in the table [at one point] to now in the fourth position (at 31 points) is very good.”

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