Chennaiyin, FC Goa face-off in battle to reach ISL final (Preview)

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Chennai, March 12 (IANS) Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa will battle it out in the second leg of their second semi-final of the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday as they look to join Bengaluru FC in the final.

In the first leg in Fatorda, Goa and Chennaiyin played out a 1-1 draw, with the former champions earning a crucial away goal. Anirudh scored for Chennaiyin after Manuel Lanzarote had put the hosts in the lead.

However, Chennaiyin chief coach John Gregory said that they will not be complacent over the “minimal advantage”.

“It was a hard-earned draw for us. Goa play their passing, possession-based football and as opponents, we worked hard to get the ball back. The away goal we got is a minimal advantage. If tomorrow the game finishes 0-0, we are through,” Gregory said at the pre-match press conference.

“But we know that this is football – anything can happen. Several permutations can come up during the match and we are prepared for it. We both know each other’s game. We are fired up and ready to go.”

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Gregory said that right-back Inigo Calderon who picked up an injury to his right calf, will be fit for the clash. “He is a tough guy. He got a tough tackle which injured his right calf but he continued to play on and he will be ready tomorrow,” the coach said.

Calderon will complete the back-four of Mailson Alves, Henrique Sereno and Jerry Lalrinzuala, who will have the responsibility of stopping the powerful Goa attack.

Gregory will also hope that his attacking line-up, that includes a struggling Jeje Lalpekhlua, will come up with the goals.

In the other camp, midfielder Hugo Boumous’ return to fitness is a big boost to the visitors. It will be interesting to see the midfield combination that coach Sergio Lobera opts to go with. Pronay Halder has proved his value to the side with some astonishing performances from midfield alongside Ahmed Jahouh. It will be a toss-up between Edu Bedia and Hugo for the attacking midfield role.

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Brandon Fernandes is also back from injury and Lobera will have a selection headache as he will have to choose either Mandar Rao Dessai or Brandon to occupy one wing while Manuel Lanzarote looks certain to start on the other flank.

Lanzarote (13 goals) and Ferran Corominas (18 goals) are the tournament’s deadliest attacking pair and Goa will need them again to go through.

Even if Chennaiyin have the away-goal advantage, Lobera is not reading too much into it and believes his wards will pull it off.

“We are facing a tough team. (But) we need to play the way we have done so far in the tournament. We are the highest scoring team in the competition and we have the highest scoring players as well,” he said.

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“The style of football we employ definitely puts us at a risk of conceding but at the other end, we are capable of scoring against any team. I would definitely take another 3-2 victory over here in Chennai like we did on the first match day (during the league phase).”

Going back to the history of the season, in the league stage, both teams have defeated each other once. In the first leg, Goa edged past Chennaiyin 3-2 and in the return leg, Chennaiyin beat Goa 1-0.

Sergio Juste and Chinglensana Singh have been excellent in defence and should be in contention to start despite both, Bruno Pinheiro and Ali Mohammad passing fitness tests.

Seriton Fernandes has been an unsung hero in what has largely been a fantastic campaign for the side and he will walk back into the team. Narayan Das looks likely to start at left back.

(Abhishek Purohit can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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