FC Goa and Kerala Blasters have played out some of ISL’s most memorable fixtures in the past. However, both these sides now find themselves in very different positions than what they would’ve liked it to be. The Blasters are continuing their stay in the top four, taking the third spot with 25 points. Although they have established a good gap with fifth-placed Odisha FC, who are three points behind with a game played extra, the Blasters are well clear of the current top two, Mumbai City and Hyderabad FC.
Not to forget, the Tuskers overcame Carlos Pena’s side in the reverse fixture in front of the vibrant Manjappada in Kochi in an enthralling fixture. Ivan Vukomanovic and his troops have multiple positives to take from that match and could perhaps overthrow them once again in this fixture, although it would require a bigger effort considering that they face off now at the Fatorda.
The Blasters have been doing well in recent fixtures, besides their most recent one against Mumbai City FC. The table toppers and outright contenders for the ISL Shield smashed four goals in the first half and won the fixture by the same margin, without letting the Kerala unit score any. Although, Vukomanovic will be telling his players to not get demoralised by that as they were just up against a far superior team on the day.
Prior to that, they had some decent outings in a few fixtures. The club had a short little unbeaten run until they were battered at the hands of Mumbai City. They drew 1-1 away from home with Chennaiyin FC in December. After the draw against Chennaiyin FC, the Blasters had back-to-back home games against Odisha FC and Jamshedpur FC in which they emerged as victors after beating them 1-0 and 3-1 respectively.
However, after a flurry of fixtures that tested them in every department rigorously, the club now had one week to recuperate from the horrid scenes in Andheri where their defending was mocked by the Mumbai attackers. There is more onus on the side to return to winning ways than their opponents on the day, as the business end is catching up and they would not want to jeopardise with their position in the top four.
Kerala Blasters had already provided a massive disappointment to their incredibly loyal fan base when they lost the ISL final last time on penalties, where they conceded an equaliser late into normal time. This time, the ambitions are bigger and the football is better, although their recent result does not add value to this point aplenty.
Aside from a tightened defence that has kept things incredibly organised in the back, a lot of the Blasters’ success has come through the terrific trio of Dimitrios Diamantakos, Ivan Kaliuzhnyi, and Sahal Abdul Samad, who have 13 goals between them so far. Given that their last fixture against FC Goa was something of a turning point, they will be determined to set the record straight.
Carlos Pena on the other hand must utilise everything he has learned so far to keep pace with the energetic Blasters. Things are just not working for the former Goa player who turned manager for the club this season. They haven’t won any of their last four matches, registering two draws and losing two more. It has been over a month since they overcame NorthEast United 2-1 at the Fatorda and unfortunately for them, it was the last time they won.
They had the lead twice in the fixture against NorthEast United recently (at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium), but blew it up twice courtesy of goals from Wilmar Jordan, who converted both the penalties they received with ease. In their last home match, it seemed once again like they might recuperate something when Redeem Tlang equalised for the hosts, but Barthalomew Ogbeche completed a resounding hat-trick, handing Goa yet another defeat in the campaign.
They have been struggling to keep hold of a winning position and are not displaying the amount of courage going forward, which is drying up their goal counter as well. This will be one massive opportunity for the club to redeem some confidence and get back in the race for the top four, as the tournament is inching closer and closer to the business end.
GOA vs KER Indian Super League 2022/23
Date: January 21, 2023
Time: 7:30 PM IST
Venue: Fatorda Stadium
FC Goa league form:
Kerala Blasters league form:
FC Goa wins: 9
Kerala Blasters wins: 4
FC Goa team news:
The Goan unit have a couple of very exciting fullbacks in Seriton Fernandes and Aibanbha Dohling, who have been pivotal contributors to their offence, but their contribution has not been good enough in the defensive front. The good news for Pena is that there are no injury concerns lurking around for him to dent his aspirations as the club manager. However, they will have to punch well above their weights in the midfield to stand a good chance.
Edu Bedia is the individual we will circle back to in the midfield, who has the experience and class to pull off some magic for the side. The likes of Ayush Chhetri and Brandon Fernandes will have to cover up some hard yards going forward and backward against Kerala, who will come up relentless against the struggling Goan team.
Iker Guarrotxena is their leading goal-scorer in the campaign, having scored six times from the midfield and Noah Sadaoui has also been among the goals regularly with five strikes to his credit. The onus lies aplenty on these two individuals to provide the breakthrough.
Kerala Blasters team news:
Kerala Blasters have a couple of injury concerns heading into this concerns. Ivan Kaliuzhnyi and Jessel Carneiro are not entirely fit but considering the scale of this contest, Vukomanovic might ask the players to step up in the Fatorda on Sunday.
The Blasters’ defensive juggernaut have been brilliant in not letting teams break away from them and Marko Leskovic is leading the side by example (completed 24 interceptions, the highest in the league). Following in his footsteps are Hormipam Ruivah (completed 22 interceptions) and Kaluizhnyi (completed 25 successful tackles), who have made the attackers worry with their high-intense approach.
This did lead to Sandeep Singh get suspended and the right-back is likely to be replaced by Harmanjot Khabra.
FC Goa possible starting lineup:
Dheeraj Singh (GK); Seriton Fernandes, Anwar Ali, Fares Arnaout, Aibanbha Dohling; Ayush Chhetri, Edu Bedia; Redeem Tlang, Iker Guarrotxena, Brandon Fernandes; Noah Sadaoui
Kerala Blasters possible starting lineup:
Prabhsukhan Gill (GK); Harmanjot Khabra, Hormipam Ruivah, Victor Mongil, Jessel Carneiro; Rahul KP, Jeakson Singh, Ivan Kalyuzhnyi, Sahal Abdul Samad; Adrian Luna, Dimitrios Diamantakos
Kerala Blasters have been very brave with their possession game in multiple matchesthis season. They have kept the ball well, moved it with conviction and aren’t afraid of committing men forward. Their midfield and defence has answered very well to this high-intense approach from Vukamanovic, although it hasn’t translated into great success as much as the manager would’ve liked.
They have some exciting young talents like Sahal Abdul Samad and Adrian Luna who are more than capable of riding the wave forward on transitions as well, making them a well-rounded team capable of switching tactics.
Goa will be under the pump throughout this fixture considering recent form and they might not have a lot of the ball in the match. However, if they can try to take control in the early stages, they could account for something big.
What remains quite interesting in this stage of the tournament is what prevails at the end of the day long term consistency or picking up form when it matters the most. Both sides have not been doing very well in the tournament, or maybe we could say Blasters haven’t reached true potential, but as it stands, there isn’t much separating both units. Our prediction is for a 1-1 draw.