Buoyant FC Goa look to stop Al Wahda FC in their tracks after impressive opening

After a draw against Al Rayyan SC on their AFC Champions League debut last time around, six-time Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) semi-finalists FC Goa will be eager to produce a similar display against Al Wahda FC when the two sides square off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday. The Gaurs were involved in a goalless draw in their opening Group E (West Region) clash and are currently above Al Wahda FC in the group after the United Arab Emirates outfit’s loss to Persepolis FC in their previous game.

Both teams will be hoping to register the first win of their AFC Champions League campaign and the Gaurs, in particular, will be keen on returning to the pitch and testing themselves against some of the best in Asia after a confidence-boosting performance against Al Rayyan SC. While making their debut in Asian club football’s grandest stage in their last outing, FC Goa demonstrated that they were unfazed and not overawed by the occasion.

FC Goa, in fact, more than just held their own against Al Rayyan SC and even had a couple of chances to get on the scoresheet themselves, including a penalty shout for handball that was waved away by the referee. Juan Ferrando will be hoping that his players can reproduce a similar display against Al Wahda FC and kick on come Saturday.

An incredibly difficult team to beat, FC Goa haven’t lost a match in normal time this year and last suffered defeat after 90 minutes on December 19 last year. Needless to say, breaching their defence won’t be easy judging by their previous outing as the centre-half pairing of James Donachie and Ivan Gonzalez continue to grow more assured and confident with each passing game at the back.

However, it would be unfair to pin all the credit for FC Goa’s clean sheet in their last game entirely on their backline. Their midfield defensive screens of Glan Martins and Edu Bedia were brilliant for them in the centre of the park against Al Rayyan SC and they will have a major role to play against Al Wahda FC as well. Martins’ tireless display in the heart of midfield and Bedia’s assuring presence on the ball were crucial during the draw against the Qatari outfit and they will be needed to be on top of their game against Al Wahda FC.

Going forward, Ferrando will be hoping that his team can create more chances than they managed in the last game. Their attacking midfielders like Brandon Fernandes and Alexander Jesuraj didn’t see enough of the ball in the opposition final-third and that’s something that the Gaurs will be hoping to change in their second match in the group. Jorge Ortiz also needs to see more of the ball and will be aiming to link up with Ishan Pandita, who worked hard without getting any clear-cut chances at goal against Al Rayyan SC.

Al Wahda FC, meanwhile, will be desperate to get their first points of the campaign after a defeat in their opening fixture. They currently prop up the group. Coached by former Ajax manager Henk ten Cate, Al Wahda FC possess plenty of game-changers within their ranks.

The experienced midfield duo of Khamis Esmaeel and Ismaeil Matar will certainly have major roles to play. While Esmaeel will be entrusted to shield his backline, Matar will be expected to make a telling contribution in the final-third. Matar has seven goals as well as eight assists in the ongoing season with Al Wahda FC and he will target adding to his three goals and two assists in the AFC Champions League group stage. Forward Omar Khribin, who was the AFC Champions League’s top-scorer and the AFC Player of the Year in 2017, has scored six goals and provided two assists for his team in the ongoing season, making him one of the biggest goal-threats for the UAE-based club.

FC Goa Squad:

Goalkeepers: Mohammad Nawaz, Naveen Kumar, Shubham Dhas, Dheeraj Singh

Defenders: Sanson Pereira, Seriton Fernandes, Leander D’Cunha, Iván González (Spain), Mohamed Ali, James Donachie (Australia), Aibanbha Dohling, Saviour Gama, Adil Khan

Midfielders: Edu Bedia (Spain), Glan Martins, Princeton Rebello, Brandon Fernandes, Phrangki Buam, Redeem Tlang, Makan Chothe, Alexander Romario Jesuraj, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Romeo Fernandes

Forwards: Jorge Ortiz (Spain), Devendra Murgaokar, Ishan Pandita

Match starts: 8:00 PM IST

Live telecast: Star Sports Network

Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar VIP and JioTV

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