The Gaurs are the first-ever club from India to be a part of Asia’s premier club competition in football.

As the AFC Champions League nears a historic kickoff in the context of Indian football, FC Goa – the first Indian entrants to the competition – take on Qatar’s Al-Rayyan in a high voltage encounter. Goa will also host all the matches of Group E, FC Goa’s group in the ACL 2021.

Needless to say, the game between the Gaurs and Al-Rayyan, which is set to kickoff on April 14, will be keenly watched by fans across India and Asia. Meanwhile, to mark the occasion, Khel Now takes a look at three key areas on the pitch, where individual brilliance might hold the key for both the competing teams.

3. Yohan Boli Vs James Donachie

This will easily be one of the tie-deciding battles in the FC Goa-Al-Rayyan clash. Al-Rayyan’s attacking firepower is brandished mainly by their season’s top-scorer Yohan Boli, who has scored 11 goals across 22 matches in the Qatar Stars League (QSL). The Ivorian has taken the slack from Yacine Brahimi, who has had a below-par year so far. He will hence be the focal point of Al-Rayyan’s attack and will be facing the reliable James Donachie.

Meanwhile, Donachie is coming off a solid first season for the Gaurs and despite defensive set-piece woes, the Aussie has seemed to be a reliable guardian of the backline. His experience with A-League teams will prove to be a vital factor in being able to contain the elusive Boli.

2. Jorge Ortiz Vs Shoja’ Khalilzadeh

The absence of Igor Angulo and Alberto Noguera means that the onus of leading the FC Goa’s attack will fall naturally on the other Spanish winger in Jorge Ortiz. What Ortiz brings to the table is flexibility, as he has the ability to play in any of the positions upfront. But, with the return of Brandon Fernandes, he is more likely to spearhead the attack.

The 28-year-old will be facing the daunting task of going up against Iranian defender Shoja’ Khalilzadeh. With Gabriel Mercado unavailable due to injury, the task of leading the defense against an incessant Goan attack will rest n the shoulders of the former Persepolis man. The 31-year-old is a solid customer and will be a tough nut to crack for the Gaurs. He is also pretty handy on the other end with his heading ability and the Gaurs will have to be wary of him exploiting their well-known disadvantage of defending set-pieces.

3. Brandon Fernandes vs Abdulaziz Hatem

With just 4 foreigners allowed per team, the spotlight could be on the regional players of both sides. The midfield promises to be the warzone where two prominent players from both FC Goa and Al-Rayyan clash against each other.

Abdulaziz Hatem is a crucial figure for Laurent Blanc’s men. The former Al-Gharafa midfielder was a key figure in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup-winning side, scoring two goals in the final including one in the final. He is a flexible stalwart, able to play both wide positions as well as attacking and defensive roles. He will be up against another similar player in Brandon Fernandes. The Indian has proved to be a key component for FC Goa, but this year, his injury had forced him to miss several matches in the ISL.

Fernandes will be looking to make amends in the ACL by flaunting his creativity as much as possible. His set-pieces will also be a huge point of note for Al-Rayyan.

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