FC Goa head into the fixture against NorthEast United FC on the back of three wins and two draws,which has seen them climb to third spot on the Hero Indian Super League table. Two good results here on out of their remaining three matches could guarantee them a place in the knockouts. However, their final two matches will be a real test as they take on Chennaiyin FC and Atletico de Kolkata, both away from home, where they have a single victory and just five points recorded from their current 15.
On the other hand, NorthEast Unitedhave risen from the ashes, registering their first win in seven outings after blitzing past leaders Chennaiyin FC 3-0. That single result saw them climb two places to sixth and a win could see them displace Goa in the top-4.
Goa’s marquee signing Robert Pirès has had an indifferent outing thus far, registering just one goal in seven games. This could be down to his more withdrawn role where he can dictate play and spray passes, than foray into the opposition penalty area.
This plan fits perfectly for Goa’s head coach Zico, but he is aware of their tough assignments ahead. “They will be tough games, yes. But if it’s tough for us, it’ll be tough for them too. We’re only going to be thinking about the knockout stage,” he said.
Pires was rested for the last two matches, which Goa won comprehensively and AndreSantos has taken the mantle, registering two goals and three assists in eight appearances. However, it is his contribution in their last two matches that has justified Zico’s policy of playing him higher up the pitch. A genuine left-back in his Arsenal days, Santos is flourishing in his new-found attacking role and is most likely to keep his place. “I’ve played this position before. I give credit to my coach for believing in me and making me play there,” remarked the ecstatic Brazilian.
Ricki Herbert’s NorthEast United blew away leaders Chennaiyin in a first-half attack that saw them score three without a reply. “We were absolutely brilliant. I tinkered with the formation and played two at the back. That meant that our wide men had to track back and also flood the midfield. I thought Boithang Haokip and Zodingliana were outstanding.”
He also reserved special praise for defender Massamba Lo Sambou who scored a brace. “He told us that he would score if we played him. Sometimes I think that he likes to play as a striker more than he likes to defend,” he said.
After a run that saw them win just once in seven matches, the NorthEast players are gelling at the right time.The battle at the Fatorda will be intense with both teams looking to cement their qualification place. Even without a returning Pires and an in-form Santos, Goa seems to have enough fire but they cannot underestimate the Highlanders after that result against Chennaiyin.