ISL: Goa looks to pull clear of top-four rivals as it hosts Kerala Blasters

FC Goa will be looking to pull clear of its top-four rivals when it takes on Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on Saturday.

A win over Kerala Blasters will take Goa to the top spot.   -  ISL Media

FC Goa, along with ATK and Bengaluru FC, is locked in a compelling three-way battle for the top spot in the league stage of the Indian Super League which guarantees a spot in the AFC Champions League.

The Gaurs will be looking to pull clear of their rivals when they take on Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Saturday.

“I think from now every match is a final, for us and all teams in the same situation. It's a very important match and we have to move step by step,” said FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera.

Kerala Blasters is also in dire need of a win, with anything less against Goa set to deal a massive blow to its top-four hopes.

“Chances are still there (of getting top-four). We had a good session yesterday. I don't focus on results. I focus on the process. If the process is good then results will come. As long as nothing is decided, we keep going,” said Kerala Blasters coach Eelco Schattorie.

Goa will seek home comfort as it looks to bounce back from the 0-2 loss away to ATK. Goa has won its last three home games and has conceded just three goals at home, the least by a team this season.

Tilting the scales in the Gaurs’ favour is also the fact that Kerala has kept just one clean sheet away from home this season.

READ | Sunil Chhetri hails ATK-Mohun Bagan merger

“I think Kerala now have improved compared to the side we played in Kerala. They have recovered some players important to the team. Kerala lost the last match, but the circumstance is very important to analyse, not only the result,” said Lobera.

Lobera’s record against Kerala has been exemplary. In five games against it, Lobera has managed to win four and draw one. However, there are concerns for Goa. Despite scoring 25 goals, the most by a team this season, it has been in a mini slump of sorts.

It has scored just three goals in the last three games from about 44 attempted shots. The likes of Ferran Corominas and Manvir Singh will look to turn things around in that respect while the impressive Hugo Boumous and Brandon Fernandes will look to create opportunities.

Defensive mistakes have hurt Kerala this season with the previous game against Jamshedpur FC a clear example. Abdul Hakku got sent off with a challenge before Raphael Messi Bouli’s handball gifted Jamshedpur a way back into the game. Bartholomew Ogbeche’s own-goal then gifted the opposition a 3-2 win.

ALSO READ | ISL: Valskis brace helps Chennaiyin trounce Jamshedpur

“Goa is a team that plays football the way I would like to play. It is the only team that plays possession-based football and they also have the quality to put balls forward. Our team, I have the tools to play the same kind of football but unfortunately, I don't have them fit all the time,” said Schattorie.

In attack, Messi Bouli and Ogbeche have been in fine form, scoring 13 out of the 18 goals Kerala have to their name. If they find their scoring boots, Kerala will fancy its chances on Saturday.

  Dugout videos