Kerala Blasters would know that they have an opportunity to climb up to the third position on the ISL table if they can put it across FC Goa to avenge their humiliating defeat in the first leg.
Kerala Blasters had a poor start to their campaign winning just one of their first seven matches that led to the departure of coach Rene Meleusteen, formerly assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. His departure led to the swift arrival of former England goalkeeper David James and the former Kerala Blasters marquee cum coach of 2014 has managed to provide hope to the team with seven points from the four matches that he has been in charge.
Blasters had infact won seven points from the first three games that James was in the technical dug-out but were pegged back by Jamshedpur FC in their last game. Now, they have a chance to make further progress and also avenge their 2-5 defeat in Goa.
“We might have the same players but we are now a different team to when we last met. We had a very good trip around India. I was delighted with what I saw, even in defeat. There were a lot of positives,” said Kerala Blasters coach David James.
It will not be easy for Kerala to stop the free-flowing FC Goa team particularly with Spanish forwards Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote in fine form. James, however, said they can measure up to the challenge with support from the massive crowd.
“The first thing in football is to understand the result and know why you lost or won. I wasn’t there at that time but the players understand what they are doing now. My focus is to get the players ready. This is yet another tough match for us but we have to go for three points,” said James.
FC Goa too know the turnaround Kerala has managed over last four games, It certainly will not be as easy their previous outing against the Yellow army at Fatorda. Star Spanish striker Ferran Corominas scored the fastest hat-trick in the ISL as Kerala Blasters were all at sea.
“What happened in the past is the past. We will not focus there. If we think the game will be similar to what happened in Goa, we will be mightily confused. Regardless of where we play, whether it’s home or away, all teams are equally balanced,” said FC Goa chief coach Sergio Lobera.
The big concern for FC Goa who are placed fourth with 16 points from nine matches has been its defence as they have been unable to keep a clean sheet so far in the league. The defence has crumbled under the slightest pressure and coach Lobera admitted they have work to do, although their attacking style won’t be compromised.
“We are not going to give up on our offensive style of football but we will try and find the defensive balance when we play tomorrow,” said Lobera.
HEAD TO HEAD
Kerala Blasters FC 3 – 4 FC Goa
CK Vineeth (Kerala Blasters FC)
Kerala’s local boy has suffered injuries of late, but at his best, he can spell disaster for any opponent. The top scoring Indian from last season, Vineeth is quick with the ball and precise with his passes while also being a clinical finisher. He has bagged two goals for his team already this season and will look to influence the game when the Gaurs visit Kochi.
Manuel Lanzarote (FC Goa)
The Spaniard, alongside fellow countryman Ferran Corominas, have taken on the job of demolishing opposition defences this season. While Corominas is very much a striker up front, Lanzarote serves the dual purpose of offering more edge to the frontline, as well as width on the flanks. His seven goals and four assists offers proof of his end product, and having bagged a brace in his last outing, Lanzarote will look to be on the scoresheet once more.
Potential Starting Lineups
Kerala Blasters FC
David James will probably use a regular 4-4-2 formation that has brought Kerala some success in recent times.
Goalkeeper: Subhasish Roy
Kerala head coach David James on his team’s mentality prior to the fixture: “We might have the same players, but I think we are a different team from the last time the two sides met. They will be different themselves, in their own way. We have had a very good trip around India, but I was delighted with what I saw, even in defeat. If you like looking at goals, it seems to be a trend with Goa matches, but as with every team, there is an opportunity for us to counter that with our own qualities.”
Sergio Lobera will probably stick to his 4-2-3-1 formation which ensures Corominas receives good service upfront from the likes of Lanzarote and company.
Goalkeeper: Laxmikant Kattimani
Forward: Ferran Corominas
Goa head coach Sergio Lobera on his team’s attacking prowess and defensive frailties: “I think that even if we had conceded less goals, it wouldn’t have meant that we get more points. I think we are the team with the most amount of goals in the league. It is true that we haven’t kept a clean sheet so far and we need to improve defensively, but we are a team that plays with an attacking formation and mindset. We aren’t going to give up our offensive style of football, but we will try to find that defensive balance when we play tomorrow.”