ANI Photo | ISL: FC Goa face NorthEast United in last home game of year

FC Goa will look to make it two home wins in a row in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Saturday when they take on pointless NorthEast United at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda.
Last week’s victory over Odisha FC helped the Gaurs climb to fifth place, but they are now back in sixth and will need the three points against the Highlanders to build on the momentum from the last game.
NorthEast United FC, on the other hand, has been enduring a season to forget, as they are yet to break their duck after nine matches. They recently replaced former head coach Marco Balbul with two-time I-League-winning tactician Vincenzo Alberto Annese in a bid to turn their fortunes.
That, though, won’t be the easiest of tasks as they clash head-on against an FC Goa team that has won three of their four home games – all by a three-goal margin.
Goa head coach Carlos Pena said that the team has come a long way since last season when they finished ninth. “I hope and believe that I’ve had a role to play in it as well,” he added, at the pre-match press conference.
“As I joined as the head coach, one of my biggest tasks was to restore the confidence in the team. We’re now nine matches into the season and we’ve played well so far despite some losses. The team now believes that they can take on anyone, and that is of utmost importance. The 38-year-old also commented on NorthEast United, saying, “they may have lost a few matches, but that doesn’t mean anything. Tomorrow is another day, and they will get another chance to prove themselves,” said Pena.

“They have several good players who will come together in search of a win. On our part, our focus will remain on what we can do to get the three points. We have not been great in terms of our consistency, and that’s one area in which we’re working on. Last week, we had a good game and a positive result against Odisha FC, and we now need to repeat it and build on our form so that we can achieve our objectives for the season,” he further said.
As mentioned earlier, NorthEast United are yet to register their first point of the season, having lost all nine of their games. They conceded 25 times during their period, seven of which were from last week when they went down 3-7 to Chennaiyin FC.
That said, the Highlanders will be hungrier than ever before to get their season up and running with a victory come Saturday, when they lock horns with FC Goa. That makes them all the more dangerous, and Pena’s boys will look to approach them with caution.
Under former head coach Marco Balbul, NEUFC’s preferred formation was 4-3-3. While new coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese did not change it for his first game in charge last week, he could do so against the Gaurs.
At his former club Gokulam Kerala FC, a physical and aggressive style of play rewarded him with back-to-back I-League titles and he could adopt the same philosophy at the Highlanders.
FC Goa, meanwhile, will be boosted by the return of Edu Bedia who served a suspension during the match against Odisha. The form of Noah Sadaoui is also good news to them. With Alvaro Vazquez, Iker Guarrotxena, Brandon Fernandes and Brison Fernandes among others providing him with ample support, the Gaurs should look to attack from the get-go and look for early goals to set the tone for the rest of the game.
At the same time, the quality of the hosts’ defence will be tested by the likes of Matt Derbyshire, Romain Philippoteaux, Parthib Gogoi, Rochharzela and Jon Gaztanaga, who have impressed for NorthEast United. (ANI)

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