ISL: Winless Blasters takes on FC Goa

The two teams meet on Saturday in their fourth game in the Indian Super League. While Kerala Blasters has drawn all its three matches so far, FC Goa has won twice.

Kerala Blasters is still looking for its first win of the season.   -  H. Vibhu

A resurgent FC Goa will host Kerala Blasters, a side still looking for its first win of the season, in the Indian Super League (ISL) here on Saturday.

Gauging via head to head, the two sides cannot be separated, having won three matches apiece from the six meetings between them. But going by form, Goa will be buoyant after its 4-3 win over Bengaluru FC. As for the Blasters, Rene Muelensteen will be happy that his side ended its goal drought against Mumbai City, but will now look forward to three points.

‘Different’

“(Am I) concerned? No. Disappointed? Yes. But we have progressed over the last three games and this is another game for us to test where we stand. It’s different because we haven’t played an away game yet. But more than anything, we focus on progressing,” he said.

Meulensteen said he has had a close look on the way FC Goa plays and praised its “specific style of play” which could hurt other sides. “We’re well aware of their strengths and we will have to deal with it and we are prepared for it,” the Dutchman said.

Meulensteen also hinted he may continue to play Dimitar Berbatov in midfield, and confirmed former Manchester United defender Wes Brown has travelled with the squad to Goa.

Focus within

FC Goa’s Spanish coach Sergio Lobera put to rest any notions of considering the Blasters as a defensive team: “I wouldn’t call them defensive because they have some brilliant players going forward and are very organised in attack.”

There may not be any change in the way the team plays, Lobera said. “We will look at ourselves and what we can do more than what the other team can do,” the Spaniard said.

According to statistics, Goa has passed the ball more, with more accuracy, taken more shots, converted more chances, thrown more tackles and made more interceptions too. That said, Blasters is increasingly dangerous on the counter and will not be shy of soaking up the pressure before going forward on the break. The other aspect is its aerial strength - Blasters has won 31 aerial duels to Goa’s paltry nine.

It will be an interesting match-up between a team which believes in patient, probing play and the other which tries to get into the opposition box as quickly as possible using its pace down the wings. With C. K. Vineeth, Iain Hume, Berbatov and Courage Pekuson, FC Goa’s defence will be on its toes. The team may have scored eight goals, but it has also conceded just seven. As for Kerala, it has just scored once, but conceded just once too.

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