Last time out…
NorthEast’s last game of 2017 saw the last of Joao de Deus as the board finally wielded the axe as they got battered away at Pune City, losing 5-0, a result which sent Pune to the summit of the ISL and meant that NorthEast’s form in front of goal stayed as the worst in the division (still only scored twice). In NorthEast’s defence, it was by no means a 5-0 game as Pune only had five shots on target, NorthEast had six, but they weren’t afforded any luck at all. Goals from Kuruniyan and a brace from Marcelinho saw Popovic’s side go into the break three goals to the good and whilst they had more of the ball in the first half, NorthEast had more shots, yet they couldn’t bypass Vishal Kaith in the Pune goal. After the break, Marcelinho got his third of the evening and Adil Khan kept up his impressive scoring record to make it 5-0; both of the goals came in the last five minutes of the match in a half that NorthEast spent a lot of the time camped in the Pune half, unfortunately for Joao, they weren’t clinical enough and that was the end of another chapter in Joao’s career.
FC Goa’s last game was only a couple of days ago, so they will have to combat NorthEast’s freshness in the game later on today; that game was in Kolkata where they faced ATK in a match that had to be put back slightly due to the fact that Goa’s plane had to make a crash landing en route. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but FC Goa didn’t properly get going until the second half as they played out an entertaining draw with ATK. The home side took the lead early on as the well-travelled Robbie Keane made it two in two with only four minutes on the clock, the goal being assisted by English utility player Ryan Taylor, who is proving his worth in every game for Sheringham’s side. Goa have a talisman of their own in Coro and he made sure that he pulled clear of Miku in the goalscoring charts when he levelled proceedings for Goa midway through the first half. The second half was all about the performance of ex-Mohun Bagan keeper Debjit Majumder who managed to keep out the barrage of attacks which came from Coro & co, stopping seven shots on target. Looking at the balance of the game, FC Goa will be disappointed that they only came away from Kolkata with a point, but, no one could have predicted the performance of the ATK keeper.
Stand in NorthEast United manager Joseph Sidy is looking forward to taking charge of the game versus FC Goa, especially now Avram Grant has joined as an advisor;
“After having the new advisor (Avram Grant) in our team, the mood has changed. The situation is different now. Boys are geared up and are ready to go for tomorrow’s match,”
Sidy also talks about Grant’s coaching style, which is a bit strange considering he is only an advisor…
“Our new advisor with his past experience and coaching style will surely motivate us. It is going to give us more confident to do well in future matches and hopefully we will do well and let’s see where we can go,”
In fact, from what he’s saying, it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up in charge altogether;
“He will take a look at the players at the training sessions and slowly come to know about them and vice versa.”
Sidy finished by touching on the form of his keepers, when in all honesty, he could be on about any of his players when he said:
“But this is football, everybody is bound to make mistakes. They will improve.”
Lobera, in the away dugout, still wasn’t happy with the events that led up to the game in Kolkata:
“We were supposed to play the game on 31st. We had to play under a very complicated situation in Kolkata. We waited for 48 hours to get a flight. We reached the stadium directly from the airport and warmed up in our travel gear”
Lobera also wasn’t happy about the fixture congestion, perhaps he has been listening to his countryman Guardiola too much;
“Obviously, it will affect the game (against NorthEast United). Having played two games in a week it will affect not only this one but also the game on 11th”
He then put his positive hat on and started gushing about the in-form Coro:
“He is a player of quality. He is one of the best players I have ever worked with. But again it is not about any individual but it is about the team. The team is the one that will get us the results.”
The Spaniard closed off by saying his team will be going for the win:
“The good thing about this league is that all the teams are very well balanced. All teams are equal. NorthEast United FC obviously had a change in management so their approach will change tomorrow. For us, we want three points from tomorrow’s match and keep going game by game”
The game itself…
It all boils down to two things really; 1) How much of an impact Avram Grant has had in his short time with NorthEast and 2) How well recovered Goa’s players are with such a short turnaround. You can imagine Grant coming in and really getting the players going in such a way that Joao de Deus couldn’t, but that is more to do with the calibre of Grant than a dig at Joao, who has got a decent CV, but Grant’s is on a different level. The issue for the home side as I seem to constantly be repeating on these is that they can’t score for love nor money at the moment and it’s not for the lack of trying either, so again, they need a stroke of luck, or the Goa keeper to let one in through his legs, anything and then I think that will kickstart their season.
FC Goa will be wanting three points from this and it all hinges on Lobera’s selection and the levels of fitness around his team. He has got a fully fit squad at his disposal, so if he gets it wrong, Lobera will only have himself to blame. I have a feeling he’ll be getting this one right as a win will lift them to the top of the table where they will be level on points with Chennaiyin and Pune and they’ll still have a game in hand on the latter. If they create as many chances as they did in Kolkata versus ATK, you have to feel they’ll trounce NorthEast.
Ones to watch…
Danilo – One of two Brazilians in the NorthEast squad who has a point to prove as him and Marcinho are the two players that NorthEast turn to for flair, yet in the games so far, with the exception of the win against Delhi, they haven’t really got going. However, if they are to finally score in another game, it is going to come through Danilo, there is no doubt about that and his link-up play with Marcinho will be crucial if they are to make a late surge for the playoffs, which as to start with three points today.
Coro – Whilst Goa are the top scorers in the league, Coro has the most goals individually and the majority of those came in the back to back hattricks that he scored against Bengaluru and Kerala respectively. His link-up play with Lanzarote has elevated them to one of the most feared partnerships in the division and despite the failure to come away with the three points from the ATK game, there were glimpses of brilliance from the pair of them and if they can recreate anything close to that against NorthEast, then there’s only going to be one winner.
One more thing…
All things considered, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be putting one of those three houses that we’ve now got on FC Goa @ 13/10 which is a barmy price.