Last year’s finalists FC Goa are set to kickstart their 2019-20 Hero Indian Super League campaign against Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Wednesday.
The Gaurs will look to start the new season on a winning note against a club that finished rock-bottom in the ISL last time around. However, after a summer of rebuilding, Chennaiyin will be eager to prove that the last season was just an aberration.
Interestingly, both managers – Sergio Lobera and John Gregory – are into their third seasons with FC Goa and Chennaiyin. As expected, FC Goa have an aura of stability around them, with most of their key players, international and domestic, staying with them.
The likes of Ferran Corominas, Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh and Edu Bedia are all into their third season too with the Gaurs. Mandar Rao Dessai, Seriton Fernandes, Lenny Rodrigues, Jackichand Singh are all familiar with Lobera’s methods.
“The preparation before the first match has been very good. The players are in very good condition, they are very good professionals. I am very happy with the pre-season, but the most important thing is the first match. We will play a good match at home and try to get the three points,” he said.
Chennaiyin, on the other hand, has undergone a rebuild after the shambles of last season. John Gregory has completely revamped his foreign contingent bar Eli Sabia and has brought in six new foreigners.
Even the Indian contingent has seen some changes, with the likes of Vishal Kaith, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Edwin Vanspaul, and Rahim Ali coming into the side.
“We almost have a brand-new team. We had seven foreigners last season of which we have changed six of them. We are very happy with our domestic players. With the new foreigners, we hope they have the same influence as they had in season four,” Gregory said.
Goa will be favourites at home but fortunately for Chennaiyin, the hosts will miss the services of Ahmed Jahouh who controls the tempo for the team, after the red card he picked up in last year’s final against Bengaluru FC.
“Under Sergio, Goa have literally had the same personnel in the squad. They have made one or two adjustments that have made them a better team. It is a tough game for us. Our team, certainly our foreigners, need to adapt very quickly. There is not a more difficult away game than Goa,” said Gregory.
Gregory will hope that his ‘re-jigged’ team can summon the spirit of the 2017-18 season and start the season on a positive note. For Lobera, this season will be all about finally getting their hands on the elusive ISL trophy.