AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
“I am happy that Ahmed Jahouh will not be playing ,” said Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory and his happiness could leave FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera hoping for the best as the two teams open their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda today.
Ahmed has been the mouth of FC Goa’s spring for the last two seasons under Sergio and his absence and the presence of six new foreign Chennaiyin FC foreign players, many playing in India for the first time, will make the first encounter between the two a nightmare for punters.
FC Goa has always huffed and puffed without Ahmed and they are likely to continue because Sergio has not added any local ammunition, to his armoury, worthy of reducing the indispensability of his foreign players.
Without Ahmed, the field is left open for Hugo Boumous and Edu Bedia in the midfield with Coro being the main striker and the onus of defending on Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena.
Chennaiyin FC, which has seen extreme swings under John will want the start to be steady and will look at it as a testy occasion against an opposition worthy of its salt. “We changed a lot of foreign players in season four (when Chennaiyin FC won the title) and it was beneficial and I expect it to be this time too,” stated John when explaining the number of new faces in the team.
New faces, same teams and a slightly differently styled ISL are going to be the main ingredients of the start of ISL in Goa and both coaches are upbeat and unsure whether they were playing to win the league; or the money that comes with the knock format; or both.
“I would want to win both. But, as a coach I think it is better to go for the league because that is the format that helps the growth of the game,” stated FC Goa coach Sergio.
“When we won the title in ISL 4, Bengaluru FC finished the league 8 points ahead of us and we ended with the title. BFC were upset then and they were right. It was only last year that, the team that won the league title, won the knock out. Teams will need to be more cautious when they near the knock out stages,” stated John.
FC Goa has won one opening match, drawn two and lost two. The Gaurs have clashed twice with Chennaiyin in the opening match of ISL and ended winning one and losing the other– both matches ending with odd goal margins.
Sergio has able central defenders in Mourtada and Carlos and Seriton Fernandes has kept the right flank under his leash. The worry could be on the left where Mandar Rao, though physically ready, still does not appear mentally prepared and that could be a lacunae the Chennaiyin FC coach could exploit.
FC Goa has three players in the squad that have made their debuts for India but playing for one’s country does not make one better or worse. Many times, the best need not be part of the national team and could yet mesmerise.
Sergio has promised to use members of the developmental
squad that he sparingly used last season. If he breaks his tradition of
sticking with the known, then the unknown in his team could well leave him
surprised and the fans in awe. His third season could well determine his course
of football in