The hosts have just one point from their last nine and cannot afford anymore slip-ups if they are to make the playoffs.
FC Goa’s slick possession-based football had made them one of the hot favourites in the Hero Indian Super League. But having picked up just one out of possible nine points in their last three games, Sergio Lobera’s team find themselves in a spot of bother. Currently sixth on the ISL points table, FC Goa desperately needs a win against fourth-placed Chennaiyin FC on Thursday to stay in the hunt for a top-four finish.
At the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, FC Goa will be hoping the home conditions will favour them in the game that is equally important for John Gregory’s Chennaiyin FC. The visitors have a four-point lead over FC Goa but Lobera’s side still has a game in hand, and a win will strengthen their chances of making it to playoffs and put Chennaiyin FC under pressure for the fourth place on the table.
Both coaches admitted it’s a special clash, particularly with the teams involved in some fierce clashes in the past. Chennaiyin FC famously defeated FC Goa 3-2 at the same venue to win the title dramatically in 2015. Last season, both teams were involved in a nine-goal thriller with FC Goa having the last laugh.
At the pre-match press conference, FC Goa coach, Sergio Lobera called the game a must-win to restore his team’s confidence.
“it’s obvious that getting just one point from three games wasn’t good for us. It is clear to be in the top four we have to improve in the next two games. And that’s what we have been working in training. The most important thing will be to restore the confidence in the team,” he said.
The former Barcelona coach blamed the unavailability of some key players as one of the reason for their recent dip in form.
“I think in the last few games, we have been missing some of the players. For example, in the game against Mumbai we were winning but then got a red card. When you are missing some key players in the positions it gets difficult. But there are no excuses. We have a good team. A team I believe that can be in the top four if we play to our potential,” said Lobera.
While Lobera is desperate to get all three points from Thursday’s game, his counterpart, John Gregory is keen to settle for a point. “This is a big game for both of us. We would want to get something out of this game, even if it’s just a point,” Gregory said at the pre-match press conference.
Chennaiyin FC were held to a 1-1 draw in their last game by bottom-placed Delhi Dynamos. But the Englishman feels that is nothing to be worried about. “We tend to play against big teams. We won in Bengaluru. We won in Pune and Jamshedpur. We haven’t played well against lesser teams,” he added.
In the reverse fixture between the two teams earlier in the season, FC Goa came out victorious 3-2 away from home something Chennaiyin FC would want to settle when they go out on the field.
FC Goa 4 – 4 Chennaiyin FC (0 draws)
Edu Bedia (FC Goa)
The Spaniard has anchored FC Goa’s midfield to good effect. Although the Gaurs have conceded a lot of goals, Bedia has held his own while performing his defensive duties. He frequently surges forward, leading the attack too, and has a knack of picking out precise passes. The 28-year-old has a goal and an assist to his name so far and will look to play an influential role in the middle against Chennai.
Gregory Nelson (Chennaiyin FC)
The Dutchman has had a major impact on the flanks for his team. His pacey runs combined with his dribbling ability has helped him outfox many a defence. He’s not shy of driving into the opponent’s penalty area and testing the goalkeeper with thunderous strikes as well. Nelson has scored once this season and will be looking to add to his tally when his side take on Goa.
Sergio Lobera is likely to stick to his 4-2-3-1 formation, which ensures their formidable attack receives good service from the midfield.
Goalkeeper: Laxmikant Kattimani
Defenders: Narayan Das, Mohamed Ali, Sergio Juste, Seriton Fernandes
Midfielders: Edu Bedia, Pratesh Shirodkar, Brandon Fernandes, Mandar Rao Dessai, Manuel Lanzarote
Forward: Ferran Corominas
Goa’s head coach on the how the team’s mindset ahead of the fixture: “Now it’s not the moment to find excuses, it’s the time to find solutions. What we need to look at are the positives in the last few games. It’s time to look forward and not look back. We have a good team. A team that I believe can be in the top four if we play to our potential. There are five games left and it all depends on us.”
John Gregory may go forward with a 4-2-3-1 formation, which has yielded rich dividends for his team in the past.
Goalkeeper: Karanjit Singh
Defenders: Inigo Calderon, Mailson Alves, Henrique Sereno, Jerry Lalrinzuala
Midfielders: Dhanpal Ganesh, Anirudh Thapa, Thoi Singh, Rene Mihelic, Gregory Nelson
Forward: Jeje Lalpekhlua
Chennai’s head coach on how he evaluates the encounter: “It’s a big test for both the teams tomorrow night. They want to show that they are a good attacking force, and we want to prove that we are a good defensive force. One team has to win, I suppose, so that rests with us.”
- This particular fixture has never ended in a draw
Chennaiyin FC 2 – 3 FC Goa (19th November 2017 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai).
FC Goa: L D L W W
Chennaiyin FC: D L W L W