The latest chapter in Chennaiyin FC’s engrossing rivalry with FC Goa will be written on Tuesday as the two teams face off in the second leg semi-final of the Hero Indian Super League at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai.
Ever since they clashed in the 2015 final, things have never quite been the same between these two teams. Chennaiyin FC won that epic battle with a fairy tale comeback in the final and they will now aim to get one over FC Goa again, for a place in the final.
Chennaiyin FC played a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Goa and will feel confident, having scored the away goal.
“We deserved the outcome in the game. It was a hard-earned draw. The away goal is a very minimal advantage. It's not something I will spend too much time thinking about. If we keep a clean sheet, we go through, but if they score then everything changes. There are many possibilities," Chennaiyin coach John Gregory told reporters during the pre-match press conference.
The Chennaiyin FC coach also made it clear that the priority would be to keep a clean sheet, but if Goa manage to break them down, his side will resort to plan B.
"We have played each other a few times and we know who are the dangermen (for FC Goa). If we keep a clean sheet we go through. That will be our first priority. But we'll be prepared for whatever comes our way. It can obviously go to a penalty shootout," said Gregory.
FC Goa may not be everyone’s favourites to sail through this battle against Chennaiyin FC, particularly because of the home team’s fantastic defence. Chennaiyin is the only team to use three foreign players among the back-four and they have done well so far to keep Goa’s strike pair of Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote at bay.
Despite being heavily marked, Lanzarote still scored against Chennaiyin in the first leg semi-final and, given their performance the last time they visited Chennai, should feel they have a chance. Goa had scored three goals in the first 45 minutes against Chennaiyin in the league stage.
“We know we are up against a tough team. When we played them (here in Chennai), for two halves, they were different. We were leading 3-0 at half time and they changed in the second half, which they won 2-0. We will keep playing the football that we always played because that’s what makes us strongest,” said Goa coach Sergio Lobera.
Goa will be boosted with the return from suspension of goalkeeper Naveen Kumar, who had kept two clean sheets in three matches before his red card against Jamshedpur FC, and midfielder Hugo Boumous who limped out of the same match with an injury. Lobera confirmed both players are available for the crucial second leg semi-final.
“We would play the same way as we play and play for a win. Just like we did against Jamshedpur, where we only needed a draw but we went for the win,” said Lobera.