Debutants FC Goa will have another chance to make an impression against fancied Persepolis FC when they face the Iranian side in the second leg Group E league match of the AFC Champions League here on Friday.
After playing out 0-0 draws against Al Rayyan of Qatar and Al Wahda of the UAE, FC Goa lost to Persepolis 1-2 on Tuesday, and the two sides are facing each other once again in three days time.
Captain Edu Bedia gave FC Goa a surprise lead in the 14th minute before Persepolis replied with two goals (18th and 24th) soon after in the match, dominated by the Iranian side, which finished runners-up last season.
Playing three matches in a week has led to some players being tired and FC Goa head coach Juan Ferrando has said some fresh legs will start on Friday.
Bedia, who scored the first goal for any Indian team in the prestigious top-tier league, is a doubtful starter for Friday’s match after getting a knock.
“It can be tricky for all the teams to play six games in 20 days but it has not been that big of a problem for us. We need proper preparation after each matchday so that we can participate with the best possible condition,” said Ferrando ahead of the match.
“We know the next game will be difficult but this is the AFC Champions League and the expectations are big. I’m happy with the players and they way they have performed although there are some areas we need to improve.”
Talking about the fitness issues being faced by his side, Ferrando said, “Edu Bedia is a big doubt tomorrow. He suffered a knock from the (previous) match. It’s nothing serious but we will find out soon. The physio and therapist are working hard to nurse him back to
“We will review the tactics tomorrow against Persepolis. We are going into the match with hope of performing better than we did in our previous game. As head coach, it’s my job to put the best line-up forward.”
Persepolis, however, will be confident of a fourth consecutive win as the Iran Pro League champions have looked the complete package so far.
They began their campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Al Wahda and showed their fighting spirit to come from a goal down to defeat Al Rayyan 3-1 before seeing off FC Goa.
“The results we have achieved so far are due to confidence and good concentration of the players. Many may think that these points were obtained because we are in an easy group, but this is not really the case. Our group is one of the most difficult,” said Golmohammadi.
“Before our game against Goa, everyone thought they were a weak side. But they’re not. They have shown good quality and are playing very well, coherently, with high intensity and with heart.
“We will try to focus on defending free-kicks so that it is not seen as a weakness for Persepolis. The two goals we conceded from set-pieces were rare and the fact that they happened twice may be a cause for concern. However, we need to address this issue.”
A win against FC Goa will take Persepolis closer to a Round of 16 berth. The top team from each of the five groups and three best runners-up sides advance to the Round of 16 knockouts.