Both teams will look to bounce back but the Gaurs have little breathing space in the battle for the playoffs.

Kerala Blasters will visit FC Goa at the Fatorda Stadium on Sunday in a bid to retain their ISL 2022/23 winning streak over them. The Tuskers overcame Carlos Pena’s side in the reverse fixture in front of the vibrant Manjappada in Kochi. Vukomanovic’s side should take the positives from the fixture and build on them. Carlos Pena on the other hand must utilise everything he has learned so far to keep pace with the energetic Blasters.

The Stakes

FC Goa

Despite a strong start, FC Goa now finds themselves in a spot right on the fringes of the playoffs qualification spots. The Gaurs sit in sixth place and even a win will take them up to the fifth spot, that too momentarily. If Odisha wins, they will regain their spot, and Bengaluru are just a point behind Pena’s side. Anything apart from a win will most definitely dent their dreams of returning to the knockout stages.

Kerala Blasters

Ivan Vukomanovic’s side sits comfortably in third place with 25 points. However, they still have some way to go if they are to catch second-placed Hyderabad FC at 35 points. Matching Mumbai City especially, after their recent historic 10-match winning run is a distant dream at this point. The Blasters will also look to get all three points, especially after the progress they made last season. They will want to vie for the League Winners’ Shield and not be content with just a playoff spot.

Injury & Team News

While Kerala Blasters have no injured players, Rahul KP, Ivan Kalyuzhnyi, and Sandeep Singh are all close to getting suspended. FC Goa, on the other hand, has a fully fit roster for Carlos Pena to choose from.

Head-to-Head

Before this match, FC Goa and Kerala Blasters have tussled 17 times in the ISL and the former has a good record over their Southern counterparts.

FC Goa – 9

NorthEast United – 4

Drawn – 4

Predicted Line-Ups

FC Goa (4-2-3-1)

Dheeraj Singh (GK); Seriton Fernandes, Anwar Ali, Fares Arnaout, Aibanbha Dohling; Ayush Chhetri, Edu Bedia; Redeem Tlang, Iker Guarrotxena, Brandon Fernandes; Noah Sadaoui

Kerala Blasters (4-4-2)

Prabhsukhan Gill (GK); Harmanjot Khabra, Hormipam Ruivah, Victor Mongil, Jessel Carneiro; Rahul KP, Jeakson Singh, Ivan Kalyuzhnyi, Sahal Abdul Samad; Adrian Luna, Dimitrios Diamantakos

Player to Watch

Iker Guarrotxena (FC Goa)

The versatile Spanish attacker is in a rich vein of form and will be an asset against Ivan Vukomanovic’s side. His movement and passing will be influential in breaking the lines between the Blasters’ preferred dual banks of four. Adrian Luna would also have to drop into midfield to combat him, rendering the Tuskers toothless more often.

Moreover, Guarrotxena’s end product has also become more consistent as he can drop deep and finish off moves to score goals. Playing one-twos with Edu Bedia and Glan Martins or Ayush Chhetri would also allow him to bypass Kalyuzhynyi and Jeakson. Consequently, it would leave him a direct route to find Noah’s darting runs in behind or either of the wingers.

Given Kerala Blasters’ shaky defensive showing against Mumbai City, Carlos Pena must deploy the in-form trequartista tactfully to ensure victory.

Dimitrios Diamantakos (FC Goa)

FC Goa has repeatedly faltered against teams that have intelligent strikers who can make off-the-ball runs into the tiniest half-spaces. Diamantakos excels at this type of movement and has commendable close control till he identifies teammates’ runs. The Greek forward scored from a spot-kick and teed up Kalyuzhnyi for a 25-yard belter last time out.

Although that contribution might seem lucky, he still has plenty to offer. Despite solid individual and team play, Goa has suffered from teams that exert continuous pressure in the final third. This inability to soak up pressure might cost them and aid the Tuskers if they can use Sahal and Luna to twist and turn and tee up Diamantakos.

Kalyuzhnyi and Luna’s long-range threat can also threaten them and will surely invite pressure from the Gaurs. That should leave Diamantakos with fewer markers and his only job will be to beat Fares and Anwar in one-on-ones. Vukomanovic must instruct Rahul KP, Sahal, and Luna to venture forward and aid the striker to unleash his predatory instincts. 

Did You Know?

  • Kerala Blasters have a healthy lead of two games in hand over FC Goa, so the Gaurs will only go two points near them.
  • FC Goa come off the back of a draw while Mumbai inflicted a heavy 4-0 loss on the Blasters.
  • Last season saw the highest-scoring fixture between the two sides as it ended in a 4-4 draw.

Telecast

The match between FC Goa and Kerala Blasters will be played at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa on Sunday (22nd January). The match will be live-streamed on Disney+ Hotstar and Jio Cinema. Moreover, it will also be telecasted on the Star Sports Network.

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