Bengaluru, Sep 29: Defending champions Chennaiyin FC begin their campaign on October 2 against season 1 winners Atletico de Kolkata at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium, Kolkata.
The Abhishek Bachchan, Vita Dani owned have been one of the most consistent sides, qualifying for the semi-final in season 1 and winning the title in season 2.
Due to the team's impressive and consistent show in the previous two editions of the tournament, the team think tank has retained the services of former FIFA World Cup winning Italian star Marco Materazzi as the club manager.
Materazzi is the only other manager along with FC Goa's Zico to have been retained by their respective clubs for third consecutive season.
Squad, Strongest XI and tactics
Chennaiyin FC have made several changes in their squad who had won the title last time. They have failed to sign two of their best players Elano Blumer and John Stiven Mendoza, who were the two most important pillars in the club's fortress.
While Elano went back to Brazil to ply his trade with giants Santos, Stiven Mendoza has been roped in by Major League Soccer side New York City FC.
The team down south have roped in former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise as their marquee signing who had earlier played for fellow ISL side Delhi Dynamos.
Among the other notable additions, former Juventus midfielder and Italy international Manuel Blasi has joined the side.
Full Squad: Duwayne Kerr, Karanjit Singh, Pawan Kumar; Abhishek Das, Bernanrd Mendy, Dhanachandra Singh, Eder Fernandes, Eli Sabia, Jerry Lalrinzuala, John Arne Riise (Marquee), Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Nallappan Mohanraj, Prosenjit Chakraborty; Anirudh Thapa, Baljit Sahni, Baoringdao Bodo, Dhanpal Ganesh, Hans Mulder, Harmanjyot Khabra, Manuele Blasi, Raphael Augusto, Siam Hangal, Thoi Singh, Zakeer Mudampara; Bedashwor Singh, Daniel Lalhimpuia, Davide Succi, Jayesh Rane, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Dudu, Maurizio Peluso, Uttam Rai.
Strongest possible XI (4-4-2): Karanjit Singh; Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Bernard Mendy, John Arne Riise, Dhanachandra Singh; Manuel Blasi, Hans Mulder, Thoi Singh, Raphael Augusto; Davide Succi, Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Marco Materazzi is likely to field his team in 4-4-2 diamond formation as he has stuffed his team with several central midfielders.
Thoi Singh is likely to be the only India midfielder along with Hans Mulder, who joined from Delhi Dynamos, Manuel Blasi and Raphael Augusto. Augusto had an impressive stint with the side last season and thus likely to retain his position in the starting XI.
With no Mendoza in the squad, the Italian manager will push new recruit Davide Succi into the starting XI along with Indian ace Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Marquee Joh Arne Riise is likely to be deployed as a centre back alongside former Hull City defender and French international Bernard Mendy. Mehraj Wadoo and Dhanachandra Singh will be the two full-backs.
Both the Indian full-backs will play a crucial as they need to overlap every now then given the fact the team might adopt a diamond formation. Dhanachandra's pace on the left flank will crucial for the side.
Indian custodian Karanjit Singh is likely to get the nod ahead of new recruit Dwayne Kerr under the bar.
Player to watch out for
The India international is in a sublime form since last season. Jeje Lalpekhlua has won all the accolades at the national level last year. After winning the I-league title with Mohun Bagan, the striker bagged the coveted ISL title with Chennaiyin FC.
At the international level, Jeje was a part of the Indian side who won the SAFF Championship earlier this year.
The young striker from Mizoram is in a red hot form who just cannot stop scoring goals. Chennaiyin's success will heavily depend on Jeje's form this season.
John Arne Riise
John Arne Riise left Delhi Dynamos this season to join Chennaiyin FC as their marquee player. The former Liverpool left-back is likely to start under Marco Materazzi and centre-half alongside Bernard Mendy.
The Norwegian footballer will play a vital role at the heart of the team's backline. He needs to build a strong defensive partnership with Mendy in order to guide Chennaiyin to glory.
Young players to watch out for
AIFF academy product and India U19 striker Bedashwor Singh has been roped in by Chennaiyin FC this season.
All eyes will be on the youngster who gets a great opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best players in world football.
Another AIFF elite academy product who has been roped in by Chennaiyin FC is defender Presenjit Chakraborty.
Chakraborty along with fellow academy cadets Anirudh Thapa and Jerry Lalrinzualathat were sent to Germany to train Bundesliga side FC Metz's academy this April.
Full Fixtures of Chennaiyin FC
Atletico de Kolkata Vs Chennaiyin FC - October 2 (Away)
Chennaiyin FC Vs Delhi Dynamos - October 6 (Home)
Chennaiyin FC Vs FC Goa - October 13 (Home)
NorthEast United FC Vs Chennaiyin FC - October 20 (Away)
FC Pune City Vs Chennaiyin FC - October 23 (Away)
Chennaiyin FC Vs Kerala Blasters - October 29 (Home)
Chennaiyin FC Vs Mumbai City FC - November 2 (Home)
Delhi Dynamos Vs Chennaiyin FC - November 9 (Away)
Kerala Blasters Vs Chennaiyin FC - November 12 (Away)
Chennaiyin FC Vs FC Pune City - November 15 (Home)
Chennaiyin FC Vs Atletico de Kolkata - November 20 (Home)
Mumbai City FC Vs Chennaiyin FC - November 23 (Away)
Chennaiyin FC Vs NorthEast United - November 26 (Home)
FC Goa Vs Chennaiyin FC - December 1 (Away)
Chennaiyin FC have made a quite a few changes in their title winning squad this season. They have lost two of their most important players Elano and John Stiven Mendoza who played vital roles in the club's success. In the absence of two star players, we think it will be difficult for Marco Materazzi's side to finish among top 4.