Coppell wary of resurgent Chennaiyin, Gregory delighted with players’ attitude

The second semi-final of the Hero Super Cup 2019 will see Chennaiyin FC face off against ATK at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday. Chennaiyin come into this game on the back of an impressive victory against NorthEast United FC, while ATK overcame Delhi Dynamos FC in a thrilling quarter-final tie which ended 4-3.

At the pre-match press conference, ATK head coach Steve Coppell seemed cautiously optimistic and said, "I think every game is so different, you can never predict them. After 10-15 minutes of actual play, you get a measure of how the game is going to play out. Certainly, in my mind, Chennaiyin are obviously a very dangerous side and they have ambition to try and win this competition. As always, I hope it is entertaining and I hope the best team wins."

Pushed for his take on Chennaiyin’s purple patch post the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19, Coppell said, "Definitely they are stronger. During the Hero ISL season, it was fairly obvious that they did not have that oomph that they had last year. But the qualification for the AFC Cup has created a buzz and lifted the camp. It has helped them to get them through to this stage of the Hero Super Cup. It is an exciting time to play Cup football. Cup football is more edgy and more dangerous."

ATK will face Wednesday's challenge without midfielder Pronay Halder, who will miss the tie through suspension due to accumulated bookings. Talking about his absence, Coppell said, "He has been terrific in the two games we have played so far. Given the unique nature of this competition this year, there could have been a different interpretation of the bookings rule. But having said that, if you commit an action which the referee sees to be a questionable foul, then you have to be punished. But it becomes an even hollower competition if star players are not available on either side to play the semi-final or the final."

From Chennaiyin's end, head coach John Gregory took questions from the media on what to expect from his side. Talking about the new-found positivity in the camp, Gregory said, "The mood in the dressing room is very good. It's great to be involved on both fronts - in the Hero Super Cup and the AFC Cup. The players are all excited at the prospect of progressing to a final. Generally, there is a good mood. We were obviously disappointed with the Hero ISL season. However, the attitude has been great going into both cup competitions."

Continuing on the topic, Gregory added, "It isn't easy on the players, a long season like this. But all of them are focused on the job at hand and aiming to make it into the final. We have momentum at the moment and the spirit within the squad is high. It doesn't matter how you win football matches, but it brings confidence along with it."

The Englishman also showered praise on the ATK team and reiterated how difficult it is to break down a Steve Coppell-coached outfit. "I’ve said this before; Coppell's teams are very difficult to break down. They played well against Delhi Dynamos, with our former player Balwant Singh scoring a hat-trick. (Manuel) Lanzarote is always a danger as well. We will try to keep him quiet," he said.

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