MARGAO: FC Goa will host Chennaiyin FC in the first leg of their semi-final clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, Fatorda on Saturday.
The game between the two sides is blossoming into a rivalry that has the intensity of a derby; especially after the 2015 final.
As far as the overall head-to-head is concerned, there is little separating the two. Out of nine matches, Chennaiyin have won five times and FC Goa on four occasions.
No encounter between the two has ended in a draw and Chennaiyin have lost four while FC Goa have lost five times. After disappointing 2016 campaigns where FC Goa finished ninth and Chennaiyin finished seventh, this season has been resurgence for the two rivals.
Under the tutelage of Sergio Lobera for FC Goa and John Gregory for Chennaiyin, the two teams have forged teams who have once again become title contenders. For the two evenly matched sides, the away goal rule which has come into play this season could determine victory or defeat.
“Our style of play won’t change because of this rule. In the last 3 games, we have had some good numbers in terms of the goals we scored and the goals we conceded. This is the way to continue,” FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera reacted while asked about how the away goal rule system could influence the tie.
The Goan side has been the most attacking team in the league with 42 goals. The bulk of their goals have been scored by vastly talented Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote who have scored 30 of FC Goa’s 42 goals so far this season.
“It is difficult for these two to score the goals if the team is not functioning well,” the Spaniard suggested.
The win helped them finish third in the table behind second placed Chennaiyin FC who have managed to eke out results. Gregory’s men are unbeaten in their last five matches.
“We seem to get up for the really big games this season when we have to win matches… When we came to Goa, it was a must win situation for us. We managed to get the result that we wanted. We deserved to finish in the position which we did in the regular season and we’ve earned the right to come into the play-offs,” Chennaiyin coach John Gregory said.
FC Goa’s first-choice keeper Naveen Kumar’s absence may be a cause of worry for FC Goa. The keeper picked up a red card against Jamshedpur FC and will miss the first leg.
Laxmikant Kattimani whom Kumar replaced mid-way through the season is expected to start. Interestingly, he is the only keeper in the league who has not kept a clean sheet.
“Getting clean sheet is not just work of the goalkeeper. It is dependent on the entire team. I’m not worried because even in the past few games, we have missed important players missing but that didn’t affect the game,” Lobera suggested.
As far as team news is concerned, FC Goa would be sweating over the fitness of Hugo Boumas while Brandon Fernandes and Mohammad Ali are fit to play.
Chennaiyin have their full squad available and Gregory admitted the he rested his players ahead of the big game.