FC Goa will be eager to put its recent four-game winless run in the Indian Super League (ISL) to rest when it takes on Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Sunday.
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The Gaurs are currently occupying the final playoff spot and find themselves just one point clear of Bengaluru FC. The Blasters, on the other hand, will be competing with ATK Mohun Bagan for the third spot with only a couple of points separating the two sides.
FC Goa’s recent form has been a worrying factor for the team. Last week, Carlos Pena’s men were held to a 2-2 draw by NorthEast United FC.
Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC have their eyes on the final playoff spot and FC Goa will be looking to add a few points to its tally and pull clear of the pressure of the sixth-place race. The Gaurs will be back home for this clash. They have done well on home soil this season after losing only two out of six home games.
Iker Guarrotxena will be a key figure in the midfield, right behind the striker for FC Goa. The Spaniard has scored six goals in 14 appearances this season. Up front, it will be interesting to see who Pena picks between Noah Sadaoui and Alvaro Vazquez.
“In professional football, there is always pressure from the first game. We always knew the playoff race would be tough because, with six spots, many teams joined the fight, but I’m not worried,” said Pena. “I’m busy trying to keep the belief strong in my team. Tomorrow is a very important game for us, and I expect to see the best version of my team during the match,” he added.
Kerala Blasters FC will be back in Hero ISL action after two weeks. The Blasters have had 13 days after their club-record unbeaten streak of eight games was ended with a 4-0 rout at the hands of Mumbai City FC in their last game.
Despite the setback, Ivan Vukomanovic’s men are still in third place on the table, and another win will see them pull eight points clear of FC Goa and the last playoff spot. The Blasters have lost only two of their six away games this season. One of those came in the last encounter against the Islanders.
All eyes will be on Dimitrios Diamantakos as he looks to add more goals and contributions to his tally. In 13 matches so far, the Greek striker has scored six goals and registered three assists. With six goal contributions to his name, Adrian Luna will also be a menace for the FC Goa defenders.
“At the end of the season, you are in a spot you deserve. So far, Mumbai is the very best in the league. They beat everybody, so they are at the top of the table. Us? We are undergoing changes with new objectives,” said Vukomanovic. “We are third on the table now with seven big games to go. We cannot afford to be casual because any team can beat you in this league. Our objective is to be in the playoffs and fight for the trophy,” he added.
FC Goa and Kerala Blasters have locked horns 17 times in the Hero ISL and the former have emerged victorious on nine occasions, while the latter have won four times. In the reverse fixture earlier this season, the Blasters beat FC Goa 3-1 in Kochi.