The Gaurs are set to play three games in the Indian Super League in November.

FC Goa underwent a major overhaul in the summer and will embark into a new era from the 2020-21 season. The Gaurs have a massive reputation to live up to this time, after impressing in the last few editions of the top flight Indian league. Their new head coach, Juan Ferrando, along with most of the overseas recruits are relatively unknown in India – which will see them build from the scratch yet again.

The upcoming edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) will commence from November 20 and FC Goa are set to take on Bengaluru FC on November 22 for their first match of the campaign. Following their game against the Blues, the Gaurs will come up against a refurbished Mumbai City FC and NorthEast United later in November.

With three matches in the horizon in the first month back in Indian football, here are the top five keys to success for the Gaurs in November.

Watch: FC Goa’s pre-season training at at Ella Ground in Old Goa

5. A positive start

FC Goa secured a direct qualification to the AFC Champions League, courtesy of lifting the league-winners shield in the 2019-20 season. They will be eager to finish on the top of the table once more in the forthcoming season, and a win in their first game could become the first of their many wins this season. The ISL is a relatively short league and it will be crucial for the team to gain significant ground and lead early on. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to catch up towards the end.

In the six seasons of the ISL, the team that has finished at the top place in the league stages has won two of their first three matches on four occasions. FC Goa in 2015 and the 2019-20 season won only a solitary match in their first three encounters but yet went on to attain the top-spot in the league eventually. It is clear that the Gaurs will need to get into the thick of action straightaway. The overseas players’ adaptability and the head coach’s acumen will be put into test given the difficult teams that they are set to come up against.

4. Win the battle of perception

There was an aura of dominance around FC Goa until last season. They were perceived to be a team that stamped their authority over the opposition and scored goals with ruthless efficiency. Given the plethora of players who have left the club this summer, along with former head coach Sergio Lobera joining Mumbai City, the Gaurs seem to have lost some sheen. They face the challenge of regaining the air of superiority that put their adversaries on the back-foot right from the kick-off.

For that, FC Goa needs to replicate the free-flowing, attacking brand of football that they have displayed in the last few seasons. The Indian football fraternity is quite unaware of the philosophy that Juan Ferrando will implement in the team. However, the club has maintained that a change in coaching staff would not mean shifting away from the style of football they have played so far. If FC Goa manage to display that in the first few games, it will set the tone nicely for the season ahead.

3. Overcoming Bengaluru FC

Rather interestingly, FC Goa’s first match of the upcoming campaign is against Bengaluru FC. The Gaurs have a very underwhelming record against the Blues, having won only a single game out of their seven head-to-head encounters so far. Contrastingly, Bengaluru have emerged victorious in five matches where only a solitary game has ended in a draw. Even last season, Bengaluru FC secured four points in their two matches against the Gaurs, in what was a landmark season for Goa.

Bengaluru’s robust defensive setup has consistently prevented Goa from launching an all-out attack against them. Moreover, Cuadrat is an old hand and Ferrando might find it difficult to get one over his Spanish counterpart in his first game in the ISL. However, the core of the team that faced multiple defeats against Bengaluru is no longer a part of the Gaurs. Hence, a change of personnel could result in an enhanced performance and a better result for them against the southerners this time around.

2. Continuing impressive form against Mumbai City

Hero ISL 2019-20 M13 - NorthEast United v FC Goa
Mandar Rao Dessai (L) and Hugo Boumous (R) left FC Goa to join Mumbai City FC this season

In the previous campaign, Mumbai City FC was of no match to FC Goa. The Gaurs have won four out of their last five matches against the Islanders in the ISL. The only game that Mumbai had won was a 1-0 victory in the dead-rubber second-leg semifinal of 2018-19 season, when Goa had already secured a 5-1 victory in the first tie. However, a lot changed for both the in the transfer market. Mumbai have secured several top stars, along with their head coach Sergio Lobera from FC Goa and things are expected to heat up between these two sides this term.

The tensions are going to be soaring high when these two teams face each other on November 25. The FC Goa alumnus will be raring to compete against their former employers. In a major clash of egos, it will be integral that FC Goa manage to get the coveted three points from the encounter. That victory can arguably provide them the stimulus that will hold them in good stead going ahead in the campaign. FC Goa assistant coach Clifford Miranda was deputing Lobera in the 2019-20 season and is well-versed with the Spaniard’s tactics, which makes his inputs invaluable to the Gaurs to claim a victory in this match.

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1. Building cohesion within the team

A strong bond in the squad will help the Gaurs in the long run

One of the major points of concern for FC Goa this season is their international players’ lack of experience in Indian football. Barring Edu Bedia, none of the other overseas stars have ever plied their trade in the country. Given the increased competition in the league this season, the road is only going to get further difficult for the foreigners as they move ahead in the campaign. Hence, they would rather prefer getting acquainted with the demands of the league early on and sustain that momentum afterwards.

Some poor performances at the start can possibly derail their stint and hamper the individual and the team’s performances. Moreover, the Gaurs are a foreigner short as they have recruited only six overseas players despite the rules suggesting otherwise. To get an early lead in the league, it is of utmost importance for the overseas players get used to the requirements and implement their plans well right from the beginning.  

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