Sergio Lobera: Kerala have improved since we last faced them

FC Goa will be aiming to keep the pressure on Bengaluru FC and ATK FC in the race for the top spot in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 table when they welcome Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday. The Gaurs suffered a major disappointment in the last match, going down 2-0 against ATK in Kolkata. The Blasters fixture, however, offers them the perfect opportunity to redeem themselves as a win will take them back to the top spot.

At the pre-match press conference, Goa head coach Sergio Lobera stressed the importance of a win from the contest and said, “I think from now, every match is a final. It’s the same for us and every team. I think it is a very important match, but we need to go step by step. It will be a very difficult match for us. They have a very good team.”

The Gaurs have as many as four players who are one yellow card away from serving a one-match suspension. Asked if his team selection for the Blasters tie would be affected because of that, Lobera answered, “I am thinking only about the best way to win the match. I don’t think about players with yellow cards. I think it is not the moment to think about this because we need to win. As a coach, I need to decide the best for the team. The best first XI.”

The last time the two teams met, Goa held Kerala to a 2-2 draw in Kochi. Asked how he would compare the current Kerala team to the one he faced in the reverse fixture, the 43-year-old stated, “I think every match is different. I think Kerala have improved their level compared to when we went to play them away. They’ve recovered some players who are very important to their team. It’s a positive thing for Kerala. Kerala lost the last match against Jamshedpur FC, but the circumstance was very important to analyze. I am sure it is going to be a very difficult match against them on Saturday.”

The Gaurs have been very good from set-pieces this season, scoring 12 times from dead ball situations already this season. Speaking about it, Lobera opined, “We have scored a lot of times from set-pieces. I am very happy about the job the team has done with set-pieces. It is important to study every opponent team. This is our job. We know the Kerala players are experienced and have good movement inside the box. We were working on set-pieces because it is possible to change the match, the result with this.

Defender Carlos Pena, meanwhile, shared his own opinion on the Blasters side and said, “We suffered a lot in Kerala in the first game. They have improved a lot during the season. They have very good players. On Saturday, they come to play against us. We need to win. We need to bounce back. It will be a very tough game. They are a good team.”

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