ISL 2020-21 Preview: Playoff race heats up as Bengaluru FC braces for FC Goa challenge

ISL 2020-21 Preview: Bengaluru FC will need a victory over FC Goa, which is unbeaten in 11 games, to retain its hopes of qualifying for the Indian Super League playoffs.

Bengaluru-FC

Bengaluru FC comes into the tie on the back of a resounding 4-2 win over Mumbai City FC.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

Bengaluru FC (BFC) and FC Goa will both be desperate for all three points when they meet at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa on Sunday.

Anything other than a win will put an end to seventh-placed BFC’s hopes of qualifying for the Indian Super League (ISL 2020-21) playoffs. The club, currently on 22 points, has made the top-four in each of the past three seasons.

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FC Goa, meanwhile, is locked in a fierce battle for the playoff spot with Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United FC. All three teams are on 27 points with two games to go.

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“I’m not using the ‘do or die’ term with the players. I think it’s more pressure for Goa,” said BFC interim coach Naushad Moosa, on Saturday. “For me, it’s going to be a normal game. We have to see how they (Goa) approach the game. It’s important that I don't put much pressure on the players no matter what happens.”

Moosa’s wards can draw confidence from the 4-2 win they registered over Mumbai City FC in the previous match. The Sunil Chhetri-led side played on the front foot and was helped by Mumbai’s habit of playing an open, expansive style.

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FC Goa, is not necessarily a Mumbai clone, but professes a similar philosophy of attacking football, giving rise to hopes of an entertaining fare.

BFC will have a fully fit Ashique Kuruniyan to call upon, while midfielder Dimas Delgado is out of quarantine after returning from Spain. Moosa, however, said that the Spanish midfielder won’t be starting the game.

But even at full strength, BFC will find Goa a tough nut to crack. Juan Ferrando’s side is unbeaten in 11 games, and last Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Odisha has the potential to liberate the side following a run of six straight draws.

“It’s good for us when we take three points because the dressing room feels better,” Ferrando said. “The anxiety and stress are out. When you’re winning the game and in the last minutes you have to take a draw, it’s difficult. It was very important to take three points against Odisha and continue fighting for the third or fourth positions.”

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Edu Bedia’s return after being cleared of ‘biting’ charges will be a big boost for Goa. Igor Angulo has continued his steady goal-scoring form (12 so far), while Ishan Pandita has proved a potent threat from the bench, adding four goals.

An area of concern though will be the Goa defence. It hasn’t kept a clean sheet for seven games and has a tendency to concede goals from set-pieces, which BFC will be keen to exploit.

“We need to control these points,” said Ferrando. “This is the problem with experience in the end, but we are working all the time. It’s necessary to control the space, control man-to-man, be strong and have a positive mentality.”

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