Hero Super Cup | Chennaiyin eye AFC Cup spot, to start campaign against NorthEast United
Chennaiyin FC will be aiming to seal an AFC Cup qualifying spot with a strong show at the Hero Super Cup 2023 as they kick off their campaign against NorthEast United FC on Tuesday. This year’s Super Cup offers its champions an opportunity to take aim at a spot in the AFC Cup group stage.
It will be a great chance for Thomas Brdaric’s men, who finished eighth in the recently concluded Hero ISL, to not only end the season on a high but also secure their place in the Asian football’s second-tier club competition. “It’s an opportunity for an AFC Cup spot. First of all, we have to beat teams in the group stage. There are pretty good teams in the group. The approach will be different every game,” Brdaric said in the pre-tournament press conference on Monday.
The Marina Machans will be banking on their top players like Nasser El Khayati, who scored nine goals in the 2022-23 ISL campaign, and skipper Anirudh Thapa in the midfield to lead them there.
“I am excited to see what progress we can make as a team in the Super Cup and it is a nice challenge. But actually, we have a chance to go on these journeys and can show others how much we can improve. Just like any other team, we also have issues to be solved. But as I said it is a great opportunity for us and we are going to make the maximum effort for that,” Brdaric added.
The Super Cup has returned after four years and Chennaiyin finished as runners-up when the season-ending tournament took place last time in 2019. Besides El Khayati, five other foreign players — strikers Petar Sliskovic and Kwame Karikari, midfielder Julius Duker, and defenders Fallou Diagne and Vafa Hakhamaneshi — are also included in the Chennaiyin squad.
Marina Machans are facing a rather familiar opponent in NEUFC. Both sides are part of the ISL and have faced each other on numerous occasions. Chennaiyin, however, holds a slight edge in the head-to-head analysis with eight wins from 19 meetings between these two teams across all competitions so far. NEUFC, on the other hand, has won six while the remaining five matches ended in draws.
Chennaiyin will face Churchill Brothers on April 15 before taking on Mumbai City FC in their final Group D match on April 19. Chennaiyin is scheduled to play all three group matches in Manjeri.