Chennaiyin FC ISL 2015
Chennaiyin FC have kept their core together, which could be crucial to success in ISL 2015ISL Official Website

Chennaiyin FC were easily the best team in the ISL in the league stages last season, taking top spot and looking primed to become the first winners of the Indian Super League.

Then came that blow to the solar plexus, with the Kerala Blasters putting on an attacking show to remember in the first leg of the semifinals, and while Chennaiyin stormed back in the second leg at home, the deficit proved to be too much for them.

This season, with very little changes made, and a similar lineup, led by that "he is surprisingly calm as a manager" Marco Materazzi, Chennaiyin will, not only want to dominate the league phase of ISL 2015, but go one better and lift that title come the end of December.

The key to that target is the fact that the core has been maintained. Apart from Materazzi staying for another year, at least, Chennaiyin also have most of their squad from last season intact, including the two exciting attackers – Elano and Stiven Mendoza, who has been loaned from Corinthians.

Chennaiyin also picked up the goalkeeper Karanjit Singh and midfielder Thoi Singh in the ISL auctions, with Dhanpal Ganesh, Zakeer Mundampara, Lalmangaihsanga Ralte, Justin Stephen and Nidhin Lalwhile picked up in the draft. Chennaiyin also managed a bit of a coup, signing one of the more impressive strikers of ISL 2014 – Fikru Teferra – from Atletico de Kolkata, the champions.

You feel, if Fikru, Mendoza and Elano click – and crucially are able to play most of the games – Chennaiyin will be an attacking force to be reckoned with.

With Materazzi at the helm, you always feel Chennaiyin will be a solid defensive team – they have bought defenders Alessandro Potenza and Mailson and midfielders Raphael Augusto and Manuele Blasi -- so the key for them will be finding those goals again, which wasn't that hard to come by last season, as Elano, in particular, thrived in the ISL, winning the golden boot and with it showing the advantage of signing players who aren't racing downhill in terms of their career.

"I have fantastic memories of my first season in India, where I really enjoyed performing in front of some great support especially in our Marina Arena in Chennai," Elano said before the start of preseason. "I credit my individual success to the wonderful support I received from the entire Chennaiyin FC family starting from the owners, management, teammates and of course the passionate fans of CFC.

"I am already looking forward to the second season and determined to make Chennaiyin FC the ISL champions this time."

With all the other teams strengthening considerably, it is going to be a tall order for Chennaiyin, who spent their preseason out in Italy – any surprises there, considering we have that bruising defender Materazzi at the helm – and while all these tours abroad – something of a fad for the ISL clubs – is fine, it will matter little if they are not able to adjust to the heat, humidity and conditions in India.

The sooner Chennaiyin can do just that – they returned from Perugia in Italy last week – the better it will be.

Key players: Foreigners: Elano and Fikru: If the two forward-thinking players can link up well, then Chennaiyin will be right up there again, competing for the top places. Also, Bernard Mendy will be expected to produce his all-action show again in ISL 2015.

Indian: Thoi Singh has been a revelation for Bengaluru FC, and with Chennaiyin shelling out Rs 86lakhs on the midfielder, he will be expected to set the ISL alight as well.

Chennaiyin FC: Full squad: Goalkeepers: A Nidhinlal, Apoula Edima Edel Bete, Karanjit Singh.

Defenders: Eder, Mailson, Abhishek Das, Alessandro Potenza, Bernard Mendy, Dhanachandra Singh, Justin Stephen, Lalmangaihsanga Ralte, Mehrajuddin Wadoo.

Midfielders: Raphael Augusto, Bruno Pelissari, Dhanapal Ganesh, Elano, Godwin Franco, Harmanjot Khabra, Thoi Singh, Manuele Blasi, Zakeer Mundampara.

Forwards: Balwant Singh, Fikru Teferra, Jayesh Rane, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Stiven Mendoza.

Opening match: First home game: 3 October: Chennaiyin FC vs Atletico de Kolkata at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Chennai).

First away game: 8 October: Delhi Dynamos vs Chennaiyin FC at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Delhi).

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