In what promises to be a key clash which could shape the 2018-19 I-League title race, Chennai City FC host East Bengal on Monday at the Nehru Stadium. A win for Chennai would propel the league leaders to an eight-point lead.
However, Chennai boss Akbar Nawas refused the suggestion that a win over the Bengal giants would put an end to their title hopes.
“I don't think so. (on ending EB's title chances with a win on Monday) It is just another game for us. We just want to play our game, we are not looking at the point table. We want to win every game. If we draw or lose, we have to reflect and improve.
“Playing on home ground is not a big advantage or disadvantage. It is not a disadvantage to East Bengal or advantage to us. It is normal for teams to come and not train one day before.”
Both teams have a core of Spanish players and Nawas refuted the claim that there will be a clash of similar styles.
“The playing style is different for every coach and team it varies with every match. East Bengal's coach will choose players according to his style and I will do what I think is best. Maybe I choose one player from Africa or from France who will suit our style. The press is getting it wrong. It all depends on the coach.”
“We keep on (improving) our game with every match. We have good players whom we choose depending on the match. Credit to the Spaniards that they have integrated well with the Indians and our philosophy. All the players are very humble. They are coachable and they have integrated well with my style,” the Singaporean exclaimed.
Nawas maintained that his players won’t be under any sort of pressure as they take on one of the biggest clubs in the country.
“East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are favourites. We don't have anything to lose, we have to give our best and enjoy the game. The pressure is on big teams like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan as they are big football clubs, we will just play our game and give our best. I feel for their coaches. Every game is a make-or-break for them. The pressure is on them. We are not looking at the result but at the process.”
The former Tampine Rover boss insisted that the referee must be unbiased and not go against any player who disagrees with his decision.
“We just want the referee to be fair. We don't want him giving decisions in our favour. Just be fair. The players are emotional. If they question the referee for one decision they will go against the player. I just request them to be fair and not get personal for a game of this magnitude. Let's be professional.”
Nawas also showered praises on the local players who have ensured a smooth integration of the foreigners.
“The locals must be given their share of credit. If they were not coachable then the Spanish players could not have integrated so well. It would have been very difficult. Everyone must be given credit including the owner. If my owner comes and tells me to get three points every match it is difficult. We have spoken and we are in a long-term process.”