FC Goa will host East Bengal FC at the Fatorda Stadium in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Wednesday. The Gaurs are still searching for their maiden win in the competition in the second half of this campaign. After remaining unbeaten in 12 games since the start of the campaign, the injury-ridden FC Goa unit was dealt with three consecutive losses before they drew 1-1 against Mumbai City FC last week.

Their strong start ensured that they are still fourth in the standings, just six points behind (29) the top-placed Odisha FC (35), having played two fewer games (16) as compared to the Juggernauts (18).

They can conveniently bridge this gap if they rediscover the form that propelled them to such success in the opening few months of the season. Similarly, East Bengal FC squandered a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 to Odisha FC in their previous encounter.

Placed ninth in the table, they have bagged 18 points from 17 matches, just three behind the sixth-placed Bengaluru FC (21), having played a game fewer (17) than the Blues.

Thus, both FC Goa and the Red & Gold Brigade have a realistic chance to take a shot at their respective objectives of the campaign.

What’s at stake?

FC Goa

FC Goa has won their previous three games against East Bengal FC in a row, which is their longest such active streak against any team in the ISL.

This is also their longest such stretch of victories in front of any side in the competition. But, they are winless in their previous five games in the ISL, losing thrice and drawing twice. The last time they went on a longer run than this was six matches between February-December 2021.

One of the core strengths of FC Goa this season has been their ability to maintain a stronghold over the proceedings once they get a grip over the game. They have dropped only five points from winning positions in ISL 2023-24, which suggests that the Gaurs must be on the lookout for an early lead to get a foot ahead in the contest as soon as possible.

East Bengal FC

East Bengal FC needs to better their away record to boost their playoffs qualification prospects. They have lost their last two matches on the road in ISL 2023-24.

The last time they were defeated in more such games back-to-back was four encounters away from home between December 2022-February 2023. They need to sort out certain indifferences upfront as well. The frontline, led by Cleiton Silva and supported by Nandhakumar Sekar along with Naorem Mahesh Singh has reaped them rich dividends thus far.

However, the Red & Gold Brigade has scored only once in each of their last four games, their longest such run in competition history. It is necessary that their attacking unit fires from all cylinders to ensure that the Gaurs are pegged back from the offset.

Moreover, East Bengal FC should aim for better in-game management of proceedings. For instance, they have dropped a massive 16 points from winning positions in the current campaign.

Further, teams coached by Carles Cuadrat are yet to win a game against clubs coached by Manolo Marquez in the ISL, losing and drawing once in two such fixtures. Can Cuadrat turn the tables on Wednesday?

Key Players to Watch Out

Mohammad Yasir (FC Goa)

Mohammad Yasir has scored once each in their last two games, adding a goal-scoring layer to his impressive attacking midfield credentials.

Yasir has scored three goals and assisted once in 16 league appearances this season. However, he has really come into his own under the watch of Manolo Marquez since switching to FC Goa mid-season from Hyderabad FC.

Yasir has averaged 25 passes per game at 73% accuracy, creating 17 goal-scoring opportunities and also taking 11 shots throughout the course of the season.

In addition to that, Yasir has made five interceptions and also earned 16 fouls, demonstrating all-round contributions during the campaign.

Nandhakumar Sekar (East Bengal FC)

Nandhakumar Sekar is set to complete the historic feat of 100 ISL appearances if he features in the coming clash. He is into his seventh season in the competition, becoming the 36th Indian player to complete the achievement of 100 matches in the ISL.

Nandhakumar Sekar is having a defining campaign this time around. He has already scored five goals and assisted thrice to record eight goal contributions across 17 games in the current season.

He has taken 16 shots, out of which 10 have been directed on target. Nandhakumar has averaged 18 passes per game at 73% accuracy, earning nine fouls and also creating 17 goal-scoring opportunities. His performance away against FC Goa will be kept close tabs on. 

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Head-to-Head

Played – 7

FC Goa – 4

East Bengal FC – 1

Draws – 2

Trivia: East Bengal FC goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill has conceded 12 goals against FC Goa in the ISL, the most he has conceded against any team.

Team Talk

“The first half for me in almost all the games has been similar. It’s just that certain moments decide the game. When the opponent scored early in Mumbai, our team reacted very well, which was not the case in other games,” FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez said in the pre-match press conference.

“There are 15 points to be played for and a lot of things can still happen, so I don’t think that this is the last chance to challenge for the playoffs spots,” East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat said ahead of the game. 

ISL Fantasy

Jay Gupta (3.5cr)

Produces consistent returns on both ends of the pitch.

Noah Sadaoui (8.6cr)

Averages 1.4 shots per game in ISL 2023-24.

Nandhakumar Sekar (6cr)

Eyeing his historic 100th ISL appearance.

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Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries