KERALA BLASTERS VS FC GOA PREVIEW: THE CHALLENGE IN YELLOW

A sea of yellow awaits league-leaders FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. FC Goa got back to winning ways with a 3-2 win over the Dynamos this Thursday. And now, the Gaurs will look to round off the week on a positive note as they take on the Kerala Blasters on Sunday in Kochi.

Whilst the performance against Delhi didn’t have the jaw-dropping effects of Goa’s usual brilliance of going forward, it showed another side of the team that they have time and again been criticised for. With the Gaurs looking down the barrels with only 20 minutes to go, they showed grit and determination to clinch a victory from the jaws of defeat.

This was also the first time that Goa claimed a victory this season without the help from the mercurial Coro getting on the score sheet.

Edu Bedia has been entrusted with the responsibility of playing in the number 10 role this season. And the Spaniard has so far vindicated Lobera’s trust in him with four goals to his name in his first five games.

Whether it is Jackichand Singh from the wings or Mourtada Fall from set-pieces, Goa has taken off from where they took off last season with goals pouring in from all around the park.

The challenge ahead

The Blasters come into the game at the back end of a 1-2 loss to Bengaluru FC. Whilst the Men in Yellow showed promise, they came up short for the first time this campaign thanks to a late own goal.

Stalemates have been the par for the course for the Blasters this season. Beginning with a bang against ATK in Kolkata, many expected the side to build on that result, however, they followed that up with four consecutive draws.

The past doesn’t count for much in the ISL, as was evident in Goa’s last game. A well-balanced side, Kerala have shown some grit of their own as well. In addition to their win in the season-opener, their comeback from two goals down to secure a point at Jamshedpur was certainly worthy of praise.

The gaffer’s call

Sergio Lobera saw his side trounce the Blasters 5-2 here last time the two teams met in Kochi and the Goa Head Coach seems to be more focused on winning rather than counting how many goals his side ends up conceding.

“What is important is to see how many we score and how many they do,” stated Lobera at the pre-match press conference after being questioned about Kerala Blasters’ assistant coach, Thangboi Singto’s remark on Goa’s susceptibility at the back. “At the end of the day, I will be a happy man if we score one goal more than them.”

“It’s always about finding that right balance between attack and defence. As you all know, our style is very attacking. It might leave us a bit exposed at times but our style is what makes us strong so we will not be changing that,” added Lobera.

Speaking on the game, the gaffer quipped, “Our players know exactly what they need to do tomorrow. We are focused about our plans and how to execute them rather than getting worried about what Kerala will do in the game. We believe Kerala to be a direct rival and the game tomorrow gives us a great opportunity between us and them.”

The backdrop

Goa and Kerala have squared off against each other 8 times in the ISL with the sides yet to play out a draw. The Gaurs have come out on top five times in these encounters, whilst the Blasters have won thrice.

Here are some facts you should keep a mind of heading into the game:

  • Goa have scored 18 goals in their first 6 games this season – the same as in the previous one
  • Goa’s biggest win over Kerala came in 2015 when they put five past the Blasters to win 5-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi
  • FC Goa’s Reinaldo and Coro are the only players to score hat-tricks in this fixture
  • The Gaurs have so far scored 19 goals against Kerala and conceded 10 in the 8 games they have played
  • FC Goa have failed to find the back of the next only once in their last 10 games