The two sides share a fiery rivalry which makes the fixture all the more fascinating to watch.
FC Goa start their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign with a repeat of the 2018-19 final against former champions Bengaluru FC. The Gaurs have undergone significant changes to their management and squad from last season, while the Blues have only made a few necessary tweaks to their side.
A lot of fresh faces will be on show in this grand game between the two ISL heavyweights, with the debutants intent on making a bright early mark in their new homes. FC Goa and Bengaluru FC are both packed with quality players – including India internationals and experienced foreigners. With these two early favourites ready to oust each other to get the three points on board, we look at the three key battles which could ultimately decide the winner.
3. Brandon Fernandes Vs Erik Paartalu
After ranking among the top players in the assists charts last season, Brandon Fernandes will look to pick up from where he left off. The creative engine of FC Goa should get enough freedom to do whatever he wants in the final third, but will face a formidable threat in the form of an unbreakable pillar like Erik Paartalu.
Fernandes should operate more centrally than he did last season, so the big Aussie will be in-charge of keeping him quiet with his stellar defensive work. Considering just how much Brandon moves around, Paartalu will have to maintain an alert stance and time his own movement perfectly to make key interceptions. Moreover, Erik also acts like the ‘third defender’ for Bengaluru and will play a key role in dealing with the crosses sent in by Fernandes.
Brandon will need to polish his crossing boots and look to create enough space in the final third to open up opportunities for the others. But, he’ll have to add an unpredictable clog to his game and take a few more risks to get the better of the assertive Aussie.
2. Igor Angulo Vs Juanan
Igor Angulo has been chosen as Ferran Corominas’ successor at FC Goa and will obviously have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to repay the faith. The Athletic Bilbao academy product comes in with a ton of top level experience having scored 80 goals in just over 130 appearances at his former club Gornik Zabrze.
Despite his age, the 36-year-old is still a feisty player in the final third and can cause a lot of problems to defenders. However, Juanan isn’t any ordinary defender. The Spanish centre-back has been one of ISL’s best defenders over the years and been extremely consistent in nullifying the threat of top quality strikers. He will, of course, have to be at his absolute best to keep the menacing Angulo quiet.
Igor can be a really tricky player on his day and loves to outwit defenders with his smart off-the-ball movement. His hold-up play and tendency to create space for teammates is also very good, so Juanan will have to keep calm under pressure. Angulo loves to slip into goalscoring areas and is extremely clinical with his finishing, so the Bengaluru FC centre-back will have to time his challenges perfectly and keep a close eye on the FC Goa striker from causing problems for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
1. Sunil Chhetri Vs Lenny Rodrigues
Even at the age of 35, Sunil Chhetri still heads into the ISL season as one of the stars to watch out for. The Bengaluru FC captain will head into the season with the same vigour and hunger to win as he did last time and will want to make a statement with an emphatic performance against FC Goa.
Chhetri is the heartbeat of Bengaluru FC’s success and everything in attack goes through him. So, it’ll be that big of a job for Lenny Rodrigues to keep him quiet in order to give his own side an advantage. Lenny should operate deeper than usual this season with no Ahmed Jahouh in the team anymore. But the versatile, hard-working midfielder has been one of Goa’s best-performing stars in recent seasons and knows how to get the job done.
With his impressive energy levels, Lenny can definitely cover extra ground to close down opportunities for Chhetri. The BFC captain will look to move in centrally where he’s the most comfortable, so Rodrigues will have to time his tackles and interceptions to perfection to stop the unpredictable Chhetri. The 35-year-old never say die attitude means he’ll keep on attacking till the final whistle and if given any free space, Chhetri won’t make any mistakes in piling on the misery for the hosts.