The Gaurs were defeated by the Iranians in the reverse fixture on April 20.
In their fourth game in the AFC Champions League, FC Goa will lock horns with Persepolis FC in the second leg on April 22. The match will take place at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, Goa and the kick-off is scheduled for 10:30 pm IST.
In the previous game between Persepolis and FC Goa, the Iranians beat the Gaurs 2-1 and clinched three points. In spite of the defeat, the Gaurs took home many positives, none of which would be more important than Edu Bedia’s goal.
The Spanish midfielder nodded home off an inch-perfect free-kick from Brandon Fernandes, registering the first-ever goal in the ACL by an Indian club. Other positives for the Gaurs include Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem’s performance under the bars and Brandon Fernandes showing his quality in attack.
As the two sides face each other once again on Friday, the Gaurs could look to make amends for Tuesday’s loss. Let’s take a look at the preview of the game here.
Season So Far
After qualifying to the ACL 2021 group stage by topping the table in ISL 2019-20, FC Goa suffered major setbacks in the summer due to the exit of some key players like Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall and Mandar Rao Dessai. Their then-head coach Sergio Lobera also left, but the Gaurs bounced back by appointing Juan Ferrando as his replacement.
Igor Angulo, Alberto Noguera, Jorge Ortiz, Ivan Gonzalez and James Donachie joined Edu Bedia in their foreign contingent while the likes of Ishan Pandita, Glan Martins, Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Dheeraj Singh added to the strength of their domestic players. FC Goa finished fourth in the ISL 2020-21 standings, qualifying for the play-offs, where they were eliminated by eventual champions Mumbai City.
In the AFC Champions League, FC Goa has played three matches so far. Two of them ended as goalless draws while the third game against Persepolis resulted in their first-ever defeat in the competition.
Persepolis are the reigning champions of the Persian Gulf Pro League. Both Persepolis and second-placed Sepahan SC had 41 points from 20 matches each, but the former lifted the title through superior goal difference.
In the ongoing ACL 2021, the Iranian champions have won all the three matches that they played so far. Against Al Wahda in the opening game, they won 1-0 before registering a comeback win against Al-Rayyan. By beating FC Goa in the third clash, Persepolis have obtained a five-point lead at the top of the group table.
Stakes at ACL 2021
Despite the recent loss against Persepolis, one could say that FC Goa have exceeded expectations in the Champions League.
Being the first-ever Indian club in the tournament, it was widely believed that winning one or two points in the group stage would be good enough for the Gaurs. It was especially because the group comprised of several continental heavyweights with a lot of experience.
But by holding Al-Rayyan and Al Wahda to consecutive draws, FC Goa have proven that they are more than what meets the eye. The goal against Persepolis, followed by the Iranian side’s head coach Yahya Golmohammadi saying “Yes, I expected a tough fight and Goa did have a great game,” further adds to the impact that had already been created.
In all honesty, that is brilliant – particularly so when you consider that FC Goa are debutants in Asia’s premier club competition.
The strongest team in Group E will also have the biggest burden of expectations on them this season. In the previous edition, the Iranians finished as the runners-up in the final and that should be an indication of how good they are.
So far, Persepolis have performed up to those expectations. Three wins from as many matches mean that they are already one step into the knockouts. While the others in the group are still in the race mathematically, it would be them in their current form.
This time, Persepolis would definitely look to perform better than last season and return home with nothing less than the trophy. The Persepolis players knows this very well and to sum things up, they have started off with the perfect intent.
FC Goa skipper Edu Bedia is suspended and would hence be unavailable for game against Persepolis. It is a big setback for the Gaurs as it was Bedia who led the midfield against the Iranians in the previous game.
The Spaniard also scored the Gaurs’ only goal on Tuesday. He is injured as well – but for someone who played with hairline fractures in do-or-die ISL knockout matches, that would not be much of a problem and he is hence expected to return to the pitch against Al-Rayyan on April 26.
Apart from Bedia, Ferrando has the rest of the squad available for selection.
Persepolis do not have any injuries or fitness concerns as of now.
Yahya Golmohammadi will have a full squad available for selection. It will not be a surprise if he fields an unchanged lineup from the last match as the whole team generally did well on that occasion.
FC Goa: Dheeraj (GK); Seriton, Ivan, Donachie, Sanson; Glan, Amarjit; Romario, Brandon, Ortiz; Pandita.
Persepolis: Lak (GK); Nemati, Kanaanizadegan, Hosseini, Amiri; Pahlavan, Nourollahi, Sarlak, Torabi; Moghanlou, Alishah.
Man to Watch
Brandon Fernandes (FC Goa)
In the past week, the Gaurs played three ACL matches and Fernandes featured in all of them. During this time, he also showed how badly they missed his services during the ISL, when he was out with an injury.
India’s best attacking midfielder has been one of FC Goa’s best performers in their ACL campaign till now. Fernandes did well against Persepolis as well and became the first-ever Indian to register an assist in ACL. Had his shot in the second half gone in instead of hitting the bar, the result could have been different.
Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis)
39-year-old Jalal Hosseini is still a colossus at the back, despite retiring from International competition three years ago. He is also the team’s captain and has scored twice so far in the ACL 2021.
The Iranian will pose a tough challenge for FC Goa’s attacking department that comprises of Ishan Pandita, Jorge Ortiz and Brandon Fernandes. Further, his strong physicality and aerial awareness makes him a threat for the Gaurs’ defence as well, especially during set-pieces.
The AFC Champions League 2021 Group E match between Persepolis and FC Goa is set to be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, Goa on Tuesday. The kick-off is slated for 10:30 pm IST. The game will telecast live on Star Sports 3. The game will also be streamed live on Disney+Hotstar and Jio TV.