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Hero ISL 2020-21: Csaba Laszlo’s Marina Machans to face a winless SC East Bengal

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The Indian Super League returns after a two-day Christmas break with a new rivalry taking shape as two-time champions Chennaiyin FC take on Kolkata giants SC East Bengal for the first time ever, at the Tilak Maidan on Saturday evening.

After clinching a 2-1 win over FC Goa one week prior, Chennaiyin FC takes on Robbie Fowler’s East Bengal who are winless so far in this season. Today’s these three points could bring Chennaiyin FC into the top-four fray following two consecutive victories, with only three points currently separating them and FC Goa and NorthEast United FC, both on 11 points and having played more games than Chennaiyin FC.

In the pre-match press conference on Christmas eve, CFC Head Coach Csaba Laszlo revealed that the game against SC East Bengal may come too soon for Portuguese striker Isma Goncalves, who has missed the previous two games through injury. Having returned to training, he could be in contention for Chennaiyin’s following game, a high-profile encounter against Antonio Lopez Habas’ ATK Mohun Bagan on December 29th.

SC East Bengal face Chennaiyin FC

Laszlo will however be without the services of right-back Reagan Singh against East Bengal, who misses out through suspension after accumulating four yellow cards. Fans may be treated to an interesting sub-plot when Chennaiyin FC and SC East Bengal meet on Saturday. Three former Chennaiyin FC strikers are now part of the Red & Golds, in the form of CFC legend Jeje Lalpekhlua, CFC’s first ever goalscorer Balwant Singh, and Kerala striker CK Vineeth. Jeje is still the Marina Machans’ leading goalscorer and also the highest appearance maker in all competitions, having been at the club for their first six seasons before making the switch to the Kolkata side this campaign.

“East Bengal have good football players. They are a new team that needs to adapt to the ISL. I saw that in the starting few matches they weren’t good but they are improving and it will be a difficult challenge for us for sure,” said the Chennaiyin FC gaffer Csaba Laszlo.

CFC will be wary of the threat East Bengal pose, with the latter motivated to get their first win. The midfield injection of skipper Rafael Crivellaro and India international Anirudh Thapa was instrumental in the victory over FC Goa, and Chennaiyin will be hoping to continue the good work with games coming in quick succession. Rafael scored a stunning Olympic goal against Goa, which also bagged him the ISL Goal of the Week award. The Marina Machans will be hopeful on their attackers for converting more of their chances in coming games though.

Chennaiyin FC are currently fourth in the list of shots taken after six games, with only five goals coming from those. That makes them third from bottom when it comes to converting those chances, a statistic they will be eager to rectify against a not-so-steady SC East Bengal. At the other end, Vishal Kaith and his defensive line have kept two clean sheets so far. The Himachal Pradesh keeper has made some stellar saves this season, and his sole aim will be to build on the same in search of victory.

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