The outfit will kick-start their historic AFC Champions League campaign tomorrow.

FC Goa are set to face Al-Rayyan and begin their 2021 AFC Champions League campaign on Wednesday. This will be the first time that an Indian club will play in the group stages of the prestigious competition. The Gaurs are up against the odds in terms of the level of opposition they will face in Group E. Under Juan Ferrando, the club have been preparing diligently ahead of the start of the tournament and would hope that familiar surroundings benefit them ever so slightly. 

Before the crunch game against Al-Rayyan at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, Goa on Wednesday, coach Ferrando and captain Edu Bedia interacted with the media. They answered some vital questions and gave an insight into their preparations:

State of preparations

Juan Ferrando gave an account of the mood in the camp and the preparations of the club ahead of the start of the campaign. He said, “We prepared well since last week because this is an important moment for the club, an important moment for Indian football. We are working hard because we know about the opponents.

“We know about the level and these games (will be) high intensity. Its very important that we not only know about the physical condition, but its important (to know) about the psychology and mentality.” 

Importance of occasion

The tactician talked about the significance of the upcoming tournament for the club, the players and for Indian football in general. “For me, most important is the responsibility. This squad is young, but it is the philosophy of this club, working with the young players, helping the young players. It’s very important to put focus on game-by-game.”

Igor Angulo’s absence

FC Goa took the tough decision to leave striker Igor Angulo out of the squad for the competition because of the 3+1 foreigners’ rule in AFC competitions. Explaining the decision and the reasons behind it, Juan Ferrando said, “The decision was taken at the last moment because we have some problems in defence.

“We need some players in defence, now, this is the last decision. Of course, he is a very important player in our positional attack, but no worries, no excuses. This is the rule, this is our squad, we believe in all the players,” he further added.

Injury concerns

The tactician informed that the squad has no serious injury concerns apart from a few niggles. “We have (Mohamed) Ali… he is in the process of recovery and we have some players who are in the last stages of recovery. We hope everyone is fine for the next games,” he said

Support from all corners

Juan Ferrando shared how the club has received support, saying, “When you play with the full stadium, the atmosphere is very good and helps a lot with the psychology of the team. Of course, I am upset since this is the first time an Indian team is playing in the Champions League and the stadium is empty.

“We know they (the fans) are so close to the team. Not only about Goa but the people in Kerala, Chennai, in Kolkata and New Delhi helped by writing a lot of messages to support the team because it is a historic moment and a big moment for everybody,” the 40-year-old added.

Edu Bedia on young players

The FC Goa skipper commented on the attitude of the young players and whether they realize the importance of the stage.

“I have had the chance to play in a lot of games. I have been on the inferior team playing in the Europa League as well. So, obviously all that experience comes in understanding how tough a game can be when you have to run the yards without having much of the ball.

“A lot of young players have grown up always playing similar level teams or a little bit lower than them. The games are going to be tough, the teams we are going to be facing are going to be very hard. Every minute of those 90 will be important and we need to be focused for the entire 90 minutes,” he further added.

Expectations & preparations

Edu Bedia also spoke in the context of how the team has prepared. He said, “After the last tournament that we competed in finished, our entire focus shifted to this tournament. Tomorrow, we are going to make history for Indian football, of being the first team to compete in the tournament of this calibre and this level. We work really hard in training, we have a lot of ambition and excitement towards playing for this tournament. Tomorrow, we will try and do our best to fly the flag for India high. 

“We are considered the weakest team in the group, but I personally don’t see it that way. I feel like, if we put our best foot forward, the other teams will have to be a lot more careful of how they play against us. We will try to play the football we have been proposing all this while,” the Spaniard concluded.

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