Fearsome Goa the first hurdle in Chennaiyin's road to redemption
FC Goa are set to welcome Chennaiyin FC to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa for their opening encounter of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 on Wednesday. The Gaurs reached the final last season but were beaten to the title by Bengaluru FC. Needless to say, Sergio Lobera and Co. will be eager to go one better this time. For two-time champions Chennaiyin, meanwhile, this season will be one for redemption after finishing bottom last term.
The two sides have been bitter rivals in the past, ever since the eventful Hero ISL 2015 final which Chennaiyin won by virtue of two late goals. Furthermore, the two also faced off in the Hero Super Cup 2019 final few months back, which Goa won to lift their first ever piece of silverware. Fans can expect both teams to go all out in their quest to start the current season on a positive note.
Going into Sergio Lobera's third season with the side, it's pretty evident what to expect from the Gaurs - relentless attacking football. With proven attacking assets like the league's all-time top goal scorer Ferran Corominas, Edu Bedia, Jackichand Singh, Hugo Boumous, Brandon Fernandes and now new signing Seiminlen Doungel, the Gaurs have a fearsome offensive unit which can trouble any defence. Last season also saw Lobera transform the team into a solid defensive unit with Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena at the heart of the backline. Having kept hold of all their key members from last season, the team chemistry will be strong within the squad as well.
One major concern for Lobera, however, will be the suspension to Ahmed Jahouh. The Moroccan has been a lynchpin for the side in the middle of the park since his arrival ahead of the 2017-18 campaign and will be a big miss. Lobera can mitigate the issue by playing Brandon a little deeper alongside Lenny Rodrigues and using Boumous in the Indian international's usual place on the left.
Having gone through a big overhaul this summer, John Gregory's Chennaiyin side will go into the season with a very new look and feel. With the departure of Mailson Alves and Raphael Augusto, the make-up of the team is expected to change a lot. On paper, with the likes of Lucian Goian, Eli Sabia, Masih Saighani, Jerry Lalrinzuala and others, Chennaiyin potentially possess one of the strongest defences in the league. The return of midfield enforcer Dhanpal Ganesh, who missed last season with an injury, will add to the defensive steel of the side, while Anirudh Thapa's presence gives them vision and mobility in midfield.
With Jeje Lalpekhlua still out injured, fans can expect to see a completely revamped forward line, featuring new signing Lallianzuala Chhangte and Dragos Firtulescu in wide areas, and Nerijus Valskis operating centrally.
FC Goa: Naveen Kumar (GK), Mourtada Fall, Carlos Pena, Mandar Rao Dessai, Seriton Fernandes, Lenny Rodrigues, Brandon Fernandes, Hugo Boumous, Edu Bedia, Jackichand Singh, Ferran Corominas
Chennaiyin FC: Karanjit Singh, Lucian Goian (C), Eli Sabia, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Masih Saighani, Edwin Vanspaul, Dhanpal Ganesh, Anirudh Thapa, Dragos Firtulescu, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Nerijus Valskis
Did You Know?
- The Goa vs Chennaiyin contest is the highest-scoring fixture in Hero ISL history (45 goals).
- FC Goa, under Sergio Lobera, have scored 84 goals in the Hero ISL, the most by any side under a coach.
- No match has ever ended in a goalless draw between these two sides.
Can Lucian Goian and Co. contain the threat of Ferran Corominas?
Have your say in the comments section below.
Catch the match live at 7:30 PM only on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV.