The playoffs are not an unfamiliar place for the Gaurs. In fact, it is most familiar to us, having recorded 4 trips to the semis till date – more than any other team. However, each time this just feels different. The butterflies still find a way back to the stomach.
We have been here before. We have felt the joy and the pain.
It has gone both ways for us. 2015 saw the Gaurs celebrate passage to the mega finals whilst it ended in tears for us in 2014 and 2018.
Having qualified for the semis last time round in Sergio Lobera’s first season in charge, FC Goa will look to take a step further under the reins of the Spaniard. Whilst keeping up the adventurous spirit in terms of attacking the opponents intact (a league-leading 36 goals in the league stage proves that), the head coach has been able to bring in a sense of calm at the back as well. 8 clean sheets (league-leading as well) is a testament to their efforts at the back.
Coro has yet again led from the front and leads the leagues in both goals and assists – 15 and 7 respectively. Edu Bedia has taken to the task of playing the number 10 role like a duck to water. 7 goals to his name prove exactly that. And that’s just the start of all the impressive numbers that has helped the Gaurs finish second on the table.
But all those records will take a back seat in the semi-finals as they are tasked with taking down the Islanders once and for all this season.
The challenge ahead
That task, however, is easier said than done. The Islanders have played some inspiring football this time around with Modou Sougou leading from the front. The former Marseille man has hauled in 12 goals this campaign whilst Arnold Issoko has also proved to an inspirational acquisition – chipping in with 6 goals.
This has been an inspiring campaign for the Islanders themselves. After missing out on a spot in the playoffs last season a big overhaul of the side saw Jorge Costa take over the reins at the beginning of the season.
Four points from the first games including a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Gaurs themselves didn’t auger well for the side. However, they were able to turn the boat around in the days to come. With the defence as their bedrock, the Men in Blue in fact went on a club record nine-game unbeaten streak to help them climb to the top spot for a moment.
It finally took a game against the Gaurs to again bring them back from the lofty heights. However, as seen in the game between Bengaluru FC and NorthEast United, past records count for nothing in the playoffs and that is something the Gaurs will keep a very keen eye on.
The Gaffer’s Call
Speaking ahead of the game, Assistant Coach Jesus Tato stated that the team goes into the playoffs with a lot of “excitement and hope.” Adding to his statement, the Spaniard also stated that there will be no complacency on the Gaur’s side even though they have come out victorious against the Islanders in the two league games.
“The past is the past,” stated Tato. “We cannot look on our results from the league stage and think that we have an upper hand. That would be very unwise to do. This has been a point we have stressed upon in the dressing room heading into the game.”
“We will look to keep playing the way we do. Our ideology of the game is what our strength is and we will look to focus on that more than any other thing heading into the game,” added the Spaniard.
Stats and facts