Chennai City FC are recent entrants in the I-League having secured direct entry in the 2016-17 season. They’ve finished eighth in the two seasons since then. Before the I-League, they spent their 67 years of existence participating in local, city and state tournaments.
Their side this season is without homegrown talent like Michael Soorairaj, Nanda Kumar, Pradeep Mohanraj and Sinivasan Pandiyan who have all been snapped up by Indian Super League clubs.
Chennai City have signed four Spanish players across the pitch to make up for the loss of local talent.
In pre-season, Chennai City played against ISL teams. They beat Bengaluru FC 2-1 and drew against FC Pune City.
After finishing the 2017-18 season in eighth position, Chennai City replaced coach Soundarajan with Akbar Nawas. A Singaporean, Akbar Nawas was managing Global Cebu FC in the Philippines. Prior to that, he led Tampines Rovers FC to second place in the Singaporean League. Tampines Rovers also had a good run under his tutelage in the 2016 AFC Cup where they lost to eventual runners-up Bengaluru FC at the quarterfinal stage.
A proponent of attacking possession-based football, Akabar’s teams have always scored lots of goals. He usually plays in a 4-3-3 formation with wide forwards offered the licence to roam. It remains to be seen how well he acclimatizes to football culture and style in India and in getting the best out of his fledgling team.
-Roberto Eslava Suárez: The Spanish defender has plied his trade in lower league clubs in Spain and can play either full-back position.
-Alexander Romario: The 22-year old winger from Dindigul impressed last season and made 15 appearances.
-Edwin Sydney Vanspaul: One of the best midfielders in the I-League, his long-range passing will help set the predominantly Spanish attack free.
-Sandro Rodríguez Felipe: A product of CD Tenerife, this attacking midfielder has the ability to be the playmaker for the Chennai City team.
-Nestor Gordillo: A former Atletico Madrid B player, Nestor can play anywhere in a front three.
-Pedro Javier Manzi Cruz: Expected to lead the line for Chennai City, the center-forward previously turned up for CE L’Hospitalet, a third-tier club in Spain.
What to Expect
Last season, Chennai City played better than what their league position suggests. Even though they lost key players, they strengthened across the pitch. Jordi Vila, the former assistant manager is mainly responsible for the Spanish contingent they signed and that should hold them in good stead. A new, young and attack-minded manager and the smart signings they made should help them make the top 6 comfortably.