FC Goa face off against defending champions Bengaluru FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Monday. The last time the two juggernauts clashed was in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 final, a match which the Blues clinched really late in extra time, courtesy a Rahul Bheke header. Embers of the tie will surely be carried forward and fans can expect a scintillating encounter between the two.
The head-to-head record between these sides heavily favour Bengaluru. With the two teams having met on five occasions in the past, the Blues emerged on top four times while Goa triumphed only once. None of them, however, ended without a definitive winner or loser.
FC Goa went into the last match against Chennaiyin without three of their key players. Edu Bedia and Hugo Boumous were out with injuries, while Ahmed Jahouh missed out due to a suspension. However, that didn’t stop the Gaurs from cruising to a comfortable 3-0 win. The replacements like new-signing Seiminlen Doungel, Manvir Singh and others stepped up massively in the match to prove a point. Head coach Sergio Lobera will have a welcome selection dilemma on his hands, with Jahouh set to return and if Bedia and Boumous both are passed fit to play.
Jahouh’s return will immediately add to the quality in midfield and the sheer array of offensive arsenal in Lobera’s disposal is staggering. The likes of Ferran Corominas and Doungel have already opened their goal scoring accounts for the season, and if history is something to go by, there will be many more goals from the Goa team this season.
The defence, too, looked solid in the most parts as Seriton Fernandes, Mourtada Fall, Carlos Pena and captain Mandar Rao Dessai, helping goalkeeper Mohammad Nawaz keep a clean sheet. The outing against the defending champions, however, may prove to be a lot more testing.
Having started their campaign with a draw at home against NorthEast, the Blues will be eager to put their first victory of the season out of the way. On the whole, Carles Cuadrat’s men looked good but lacked their customary sharpness against the Highlanders – something which would have surely been worked upon since the match.
New signings Raphael Augusto and Ashique Kuruniyan gave good accounts of themselves on their club debuts. The Brazilian flourished in the central midfield alongside Dimas Delgado, while Ashique, despite operating from an unfamiliar left-back position, troubled the Highlanders backline time and again with his marauding runs.
Up top, Sunil Chhetri and Manuel Onwu’s combination still seemed like work in progress and it may take some time for the two to operate optimally with each other.
FC Goa: Mohammad Nawaz (GK), Carlos Pena, Seriton Fernandes, Mourtada Fall, Mandar Rao Dessai, Lenny Rodrigues, Ahmed Jahouh, Brandon Fernandes, Seiminlen Doungel, Ferran Corominas, Manvir Singh
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Juanan, Rahul Bheke, Nishu Kumar, Ashique Kuruniyan, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Raphael Augusto, Dimas Delgado, Udanta Singh, Manuel Onwu, Sunil Chhetri