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Lobera keen to return to winning ways, Coppell looks for another scalp

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Both teams face a must-win game later today.

FC Goa gear up to welcome Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 debutants Jamshedpur FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Thursday. The Gaurs started the season with a flourish, but have recently experienced a slump in form, having failed to secure a win in their last three encounters. However, when they meet the best defensive unit this season, the hosts will have to live up to their tag of being the best-attacking unit with 20 goals to their name from just 8 matches so far.

Watch FC Goa's last match highlights here

In the pre-match press conference, speaking to the media was Goa’s head coach Sergio Lobera who was asked what can be the reason behind the team’s recent form. “Yeah it is true that we haven’t done well in the last three games but there are certain reasons why,” he began. “In this league, the small details make all the difference. Against Pune, if we had taken the lead the result would have been completely different. When the score was 0-0, there was an opportunity where we should have taken the lead. In the second game against Kolkata, there was an opportunity for a penalty that wasn’t given. Again if we had put ourselves in the lead, I don’t think we would have had just one point from that game. And the last game, we weren’t at our best. We have to learn from our mistakes and be at our best in every game and tomorrow if we win we will be back with the teams at the top.”

When asked if the recent draws and defeats were because other teams had worked out their weaknesses and tactics, the Spaniard opined, “Pune, NorthEast didn’t play differently to what they usually play, against us. But again tomorrow we play against a team that have kept five clean sheets so we have to prepare. From the next set of games, we have five games at home which will show us whether we’re a team capable of competing in the semi-finals. I have a lot of faith in my players, I have a lot of faith in the fans and all the people back home watching.”

The 40-year old made four changes to the starting line-up in their 2-1 away loss to NorthEast United FC, but Lobera is not of the view that those changes affected their gameplay. “The obvious reason (for the changes) being that we played two matches in four days. The first match we played in some adverse and uncertain circumstances. In the second game obviously, we had to rest some players. I put my players above the result ultimately. We always looked for three points in both games, that was the best option. Based on the first match, we had to make changes,” he explained.

The Gaurs lost their previous home match 2-0 to FC Pune City, but Lobera believes his team will not be under added pressure to secure a win when playing in front of their passionate fans. “We don’t have any pressure. We are a team that has a lot of excitement. We’re coming from a very difficult season last year. I think we’ve recovered the confidence and faith of the supporters with the style of play and results. For me as a coach, we have to be in the top with a point of view of excitement and not pressure,” he concluded.


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Jamshedpur FC travels to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa to meet FC Goa on Thursday in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18. The visitors sit one rank lower than their opponents at sixth spot on the points table and enter the match as the best defensive team currently, with only four goals scored against them in eight matches. When they meet Goa, the most attacking side in the league (20 goals in 8 matches), the fans are sure to witness an intriguing battle of attack against defence.

Present for Jamshedpur in the pre-match press conference was head coach Steve Coppell, who began with his expectations from Thursday’s encounter. “It sounds like it’s going to be a great contest”, he began. “Test of our defence against the most fluid attacking unit. They (FC Goa) score goals freely as they’ve shown against a number of sides. It’s a challenge for us to stifle that threat and obviously do our best to hurt them as well. We have come here not just to defend, we want to play a full part in this game and that means not just doing our defensive duties but also trying to expose any weaknesses they might have at the back. I hope it’s a good game.”

Watch Jamshedpur FC's highlights against Mumbai City FC here

He further revealed how he evaluates the Gaurs as a team. “It’s tough to play against them because they are so fluid going forward,” Coppell continued. “They are the top scorers in the competition. They have invention on the side. (Manuel) Lanzarote loads bullets for Coro (Ferran Corominas) to fire. They have good solid, creative midfielders as well. They are very attractive in possession going forward. They have leaked a few goals which they’ll be upset about. They’ll give you opportunities if you commit yourself. I can’t even think about a weak-link but they’ve lost games. The games lost in this competition are by a very tight margin. They won four and lost three.”

Coppell’s men are known to be the most difficult defensive set-up to breach this season, but the Englishman is not of the view that the team’s initial strategy was to follow that path. “There is no way we set up at the start of the season saying that we’ll defend and we’ll be successful. It was a series of circumstances and we’re a new team. As a new team, there hasn’t been the experience. We have the geographical challenge as well, there’s a lot of travelling that we have to do. The teams with three-four years experience have an advantage. I’m not making that as an excuse. We would like to be as attack-minded as possible,” Coppell said.

“We had an injury with Anas (Edathodika). Anas was obviously our first pick in the draft to play. And he’s had a few issues that changed the balance of the side. There is certainly no intention from our side to crawl through the season, we’re just trying to win football games. Kerala in year one got to the final scoring nine goals in 14 games in the competition. So, it’s not always about the attack. For a coach, it’s more pleasing to get a clean sheet. I’d love to win every game as Goa has been doing. It’s my job in tomorrow’s game to stifle them,” he explained. 

The 62-year old always emphasized that he wants his side to score more goals which they did in their last encounter against Mumbai City FC, when they scored twice. However, it was also the first time that they conceded twice to finish 2-2, and when asked if it was his new strategy to shift more towards attacking, he replied, “Well, we’d like to. It’s our intention to play more expansive football going forward. Anas coming back has enabled us to play an extra international forward up front and that makes a difference. That’s been a bonus. Anas has been out for a while and he hadn’t trained much and our pitch is quite demanding so it’s a big question whether he should play. He obviously did play and came through the 90 minutes. He hasn’t had a great deal of time training with the back four and I think that was a little apparent. We hope that will be tidied up.”

Before leaving, Coppell also shared his views on how he feels about the progress of the Hero ISL and his team this season. “Well, I would say the shape of the positions of most of the teams is probably a fair reflection of the way the sides have played. You look at the defeats, there’s not one dominant team. The leads they’ve got at the top are not out of sight. I think every team has still got a realistic chance. You win three-four games and you are right up there. From the first game of the season, I said scheduling would be significant. We’re probably coming into our toughest spell in terms of scheduling. We’ve got six games in the next three weeks, with the extra travelling that we have to do. I’ll know by the end of January where we sit in the position of going forward. A difficult time starting with playing one of the best but we’re here to play the best and pick up points against the best,” he concluded.

Published: Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:30 AM IST

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