14:30 GMT, Friday 9th February, Sree Kanteerava Stadium (Bengaluru, India), Sab TV UK
Bengaluru sits at the top of the league, opening up a seven-point difference with second-placed Chennaiyin FC after the Blues’ recent win over the Marina Machans. They now host another top-four contender FC Goa, in the space of two days.
The Blues have had a good run recently, enjoying six wins in last seven outings and ten wins in 14 outings overall. Albert Roca has been able to continue their winning streak despite having injured players in the squad and its times like this, especially the tail-end of the season when the squad depth comes into use.
Strangely, the Gaur’s last seven outings have been forgettable. After winning four of their first five matches, Goa has managed to win only two games in their last seven outings. However, they do have two games in hand, when compared with Bengaluru and a win over the table-toppers will take them back in the number three spot instantly.
Last time out
Chennaiyin FC 1-3 Bengaluru FC (Indian Super League)
It was an end to end stuff at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Tuesday when Bengaluru and Chennaiyin clashed. The Blues dominated the game keeping majority of the possession and creating double the number of shots on goal as Chennaiyin.
Boithang Haokip managed to fire the visitors into the lead with a fiery strike from five yards out, beating Karanjit Singh. The visitors continued the game on the front foot but were often disrupted as Chennaiyin continued to intercept attacks in the middle of the pitch and relay it to the Gregory Nelson on the flanks.
Nelson tried his hand on a few long-range shots but the ball was always rising. Soon after, fullback Jerry Lalrinzuala's cross found Francis Fernandes beneath it who headed home his first goal in ISL.
After the restart, both teams continued to look for the lead but would have to wait. The referee found Chennaiyin skipper Henrique Sereno a little too eager for his foul on Miku, which saw him being sent off, after receiving his second yellow.
Soon, the game started to turn to Bengaluru's favour. In the 60-minute mark, Dimas Delgado's free-kick saw Sunil Chhetri fire in a shot and the keeper had almost saved it but found Miku waiting behind him, who pushed it home.
To seal things off, Udanta Singh picked up on a loose back-pass by Jerry Lalrinzuala and squared the ball to Chhetri who made no mistake about putting it past the Chennaiyin defenders.
FC Goa 2-2 NorthEast United (Indian Super League)
The Gaurs hosted the Highlanders and after being toppled from their top four spots, it was now a must-win to keep hope for a playoff spot. The reverse fixture had seen NorthEast win with a 2-1 margin and it was expected that the Gaurs would exact revenge for that loss.
However, the story ran to the contrary. Goa took the lead through Mandar Rao Desai’s beautiful curling shot from outside the box in the 42nd minute.
Manuel Lanzarote and co. continued to press high looking to plunder NorthEast’s weak defense, but it was their own defense which failed them. Two minutes after the opening goal, the Highlanders struck back through Marcinho’s equally impressive shot.
After the half-time, the home side regained their lead as Lanzarote and Ferran Corominas linked up to push Goa ahead in the 53rd minute. Highlanders coach Avram Grant brought on January signing Joh Mosquera for immediate impact and what an impact he had! A minute after coming on, the Columbian tapped home Halicharan Narzary’s cross equalising once more and spoiling the part for Goa.
Bengaluru FC lineup
Dimas Delgado returned to the lineup after his recent injury, as did Harmanjot Khabra, while Boithang Haokip replaced Lenny Rodrigues beside Erik Paartalu. Keeping in mind their current rotation policy, the next match might see Rodrigues and Edu Garcia return to the starting lineup.
FC Goa lineup
Sergio Lobera is expected to make no changes to the starting lineup.
Key Battle: Miku (ATK) vs Ferran Corominas (FC Goa)
It’s the battle between the two top scorers in the league. Miku currently stands at 11 goals from 14 appearances, trailing Corominas by two goals. Miku and Corominas have a similar playing style with both being expert in scoring goals inside the box.
But while Miku can go unnoticed in a few matches, the Spaniard has the ability to find magic in almost every match, which is why he has 13 goals in 12 outings. The last time these two teams met, Miku scored a brace, while Corominas scored his first hat-trick of the season.
Corominas does have a tendency to drop down and link up with Mandar Rao Desai and Manuel Lanzarote, giving him the ability to start the move and then finish it, while Miku is often found reliant on Chhetri, Udanta Singh or Erik Paartalu for creating the opportunity for him.
Bengaluru’s sudden dip in form
Their match against ATK was certainly not one of the best despite performances, despite the result. They got lucky with the opening goal while the second goal came in the dying minutes. But they bounced back against Chennaiyin, beating the Marina Machans with a comprehensive 3-1 margin.
The home team was outmatched in their attacking endeavours as the Blues pumped in 10 shots on goal, against Chennaiyin’s meagre five. They have had such sudden dips and bursts in performance, but a lacklustre performance against FC Goa might see them lose their point difference with the other teams.
Defensive errors might trouble Goa again
Goa’s defensive errors have already cost them a place in the top four. They have been unable to hold onto a lead and despite retaining Bruno Pinheiro, Narayan Das and Laxmikant Kattimani, they have failed to build a stable and well-balanced team.
As a result, they have ended up conceding 23 goals in 12 matches and have had to rely on their attack to bail them out every time.
Unfortunately, the strikers might not always be able to rescue the team, and as has been evidenced multiple times already, they’ll end up losing vital points towards the tail end of the season.
Bengaluru FC 2-3 FC Goa
The first leg of this fixture saw seven goals being scored between the two teams and this match seems to be no exception. While Bengaluru has a better defence than Goa, it’s not enough to stop the Gaurs fearsome goal-scoring capability.
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