Super Cup: FC Goa challenge for Chennai City in semifinals

As his Chennai City side takes on FC Goa in the semifinals of the Super Cup 2019 at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday, coach Akbar Nawas would rather continue to associate with the ‘underdog’ tag.

Chennai City FC is flying high at the moment with wins over FC Pune City and the Indian Super League champion Bengaluru FC.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

As his Chennai City side takes on FC Goa in the semifinals of the Super Cup here at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday, coach Akbar Nawas would rather continue to associate with the ‘underdog’ tag.

Despite topping the points table for the majority of the I-League season, Nawas said the reigning champion ‘felt the pressure’ of being labelled the favourite in the title run-in.

Chennai City, however, is flying high at the moment with wins over FC Pune City and the Indian Super League champion Bengaluru FC. It is the only Indian team to score over 50 goals across all competitions this season and has the fearsome trio of Pedro Manzi, Nestor Gordillo and Sandro Rodriguez in its ranks.

Both teams usually operate in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the onus on the defenders and the goalkeeper to build attacks from the back with quick, passing football. The teams also like their full-backs to push high up the pitch to create a numerical advantage when in possession of the ball.

However, much like the game against Bengaluru in the quarterfinals, Nawas expects Goa to dominate the proceedings citing the ISL side’s superior quality. Chennai City will be hoping to dispossess the opposition high up the pitch and hit them swiftly in the transition from defence to attack.

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The Singaporean coach is prepared for any eventuality that presents itself in the last-four contest.

“Almost every team has strengths and weakness which you can exploit. But what if tomorrow (Tuesday) they decide to stay compact in defence? We need to prepare for all possibilities. If we assume something then its recipe for disaster,” said Nawas.

Charles Anandraj, who was dismissed against Pune City, will slot into Chennai's central midfield for the suspended Michael Regin.

Chennai City FC coach Akbar Nawas wants to continue with the ‘underdog’ tag.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

 

Chennai not averse to direct route

Unlike Goa, Chennai is not averse to taking the direct route to goal as seen during both its goals against Bengaluru. Gordillo, on the left flank, likes to play along the line of the shoulder of the last defender and exploit any space afforded by Goa’s defenders behind them.

The striker Manzi has the strength and the ball control to hold the ball up in attack to bring in his attacking partners into play during counter-attacks.

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Of the threat, Goa coach Sergio Lobera said, “We have to be ready for that. We have played against teams like that before. Apart from this, we have to stick to our idea. Obviously, we will look at their strong points and try to restrict that.”

The arrival of center backs Carlos Pena and Mourtada Fall has given Lobera’s side the defensive stability it lacked last year. After managing just two clean sheets in the whole of 2017-18 ISL season, the defence has shut out the opposition eight times this season.

The Spanish coach recognised the loss of the suspended-midfielder Edu Bedia and Ahmed Jahouh, who was not registered in the squad due to the six foreigner rule for the tournament. Lobera, although, has a capable replacement in Hugo Boumous.

Finding balance

On Chennai City’s fabled attack, he noted, “They have good attacking players, who are very tricky. Nestor and Pedro compliment really well with each other. The most important thing for us is to keep the balance in defence and attack. The team which finds the balance better will win.”

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