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Chennaiyin FC: ISL 2021-22 fixtures, squad, strengths, weaknesses and star players – Goal.com

Can a new-look Chennaiyin FC establish themselves as the title contenders once again?
Chennaiyin FC had a disappointing campaign in the previous season of the Indian Super League (ISL) where they finished eighth with just 20 points on the board from an equal number of matches. A leaky defence along with a toothless attack did not help their cause as they conceded 23 times and could score only 17 goals. 
However, to script a turnaround, they have got on board a new technical team under head coach Bozidar Bandovic. Apart from retaining a dependable player like Rafael Crivellaro they have roped in five new overseas faces. The two-time ISL champions have signed a few new Indian players like Jobby Justin, Ninthoi Meetei, Narayan Das, Debjit Majumdar to name a few. 
Let us have a look at Chennaiyin FC's squad. 
Goalkeepers:  Debjit Majumdar, Vishal Kaith, Devansh Dabas. 
Defenders:  Balaji Ganesan, Davinder Singh, Deepak Devrani, Slavko Damjanovic, Narayan das, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Salam Ranjan Singh, Reagan Singh. 
Midfielders:  Vladimir Koman, Johnson Mathews, Syed Suhail Pasha, Subhadip Majhi, Melroy Assisi, Germanpreet Singh, Ariel Borysiuk, Rafael Crivellaro, Edwin Vanspaul, Anirudh Thapa.
Forwards: Ninthoi Meetei, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rahim Ali, Mirlan Murzaev, Jobby Justin, Lukasz Gikiewicz. 
It is often said that to get the three points a team must more often than not win the midfield battle. And Chennaiyin FC have got some quality players at the centre of the park. As mentioned earlier, they have retained Crivellaro who will be their linchpin in the attacking third. In Anirudh Thapa, the team has one of the best domestic midfielders who likes to make his presence felt.
Moreover, they have signed an attacking midfielder in Vladimir Koman who has the experience of playing in some of the popular European outfits like Sampdoria and AS Monaco. He has appeared 36 times for Hungary and has seven strikes to his name. Meanwhile, Ariel Borysiuk will be present to add more steel in midfield. He was a regular for Jagiellonia Bialystok in the Polish league and made 15 appearances in the previous season. 
Chennaiyin have reinforced their forward line as well. They scored just 17 goals in 20 matches in the previous season and hence they have left no stone unturned to make sure that there is no dearth of goals. Apart from signing Jobby Justin, the Marina Machans have roped in two overseas forwards in Lukasz Gikiewicz and Mirlan Murzaev. Gikiewicz stands tall 6'2'' and can be a perfect target-man, especially with his superior aerial ability. Whereas, Murzaev was in terrific form last season for Dordoi Bishkek in the Kazakh League where he scored seven goals and provided seven assists in just 17 games. He is a versatile player and can play in any position in a front three. 
Not to forget they already have Lallianzuala Chhangte and Rahim Ali in the ranks, while club skipper Crivellaro will also be expected to chip in with some goals. There is little doubt that coach Bandovic will be spoilt for choice and now it is up to him to make the right recipe with the available ingredients. 
Chennaiyin's defence is an area of concern. They have got just one overseas defender in Slavko Damjanovic and a lot will rest on the form of the Serbian. What will assure Chennaiyin fans is that he was a regular for his previous outfit Backa Topola in Serbia and played 990 minutes in the top tier. 
But his defensive partners are not known to be sure-footed. Chennaiyin have got a couple of domestic options in Salam Ranjan Singh and Deepak Devrani but none of them oozes the confidence that you expect from a centre-back. While Salam was primarily a benchwarmer in the last couple of seasons, this will be Devrani's first season in ISL. Meanwhile, Raegan Singh and Narayan Das are likely to be the first-choice wing-backs, who are prone to make errors and does not provide a sense of assurance.
Moreover, none of the new players signed are established stars and how they step up to the challenge will be keenly watched. 
The three key players of Chennaiyin FC who might be the difference-makers are Anirudh Thapa, Rafael Crivellaro, and Mirlan Murzaev. 

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