ISL 2019: Bengaluru FC, Goa to battle for top spot
Goa has the best-attacking record so far this season (35 goals scored) and the joint-best defensive record (17 goals allowed).
The playoffs berths are booked. Bengaluru FC and FC Goa will take on each other in their Indian Super League match in a battle for the top spot on Thursday.
FC Goa has climbed to the top of the ISL ladder but whether they manage to stay there will be known when they face 'the Blues' at their den in a 'top of the table' clash at the Sree Kanteerava stadium.
The Goa-based side has a chance to go three points clear of Bengaluru at the top, but more than that the driving factor for Sergio Lobera's team will be a desire to ensure their momentum does not stall with just two rounds to go before the playoffs.
The Gaurs are high on confidence after a six-game unbeaten run in which they have not conceded a goal in the last five. Given the troubles Goa has had with their defensive organisation earlier in the season, this augurs well for Lobera.
Goa has the best-attacking record so far this season (35 goals scored) and the joint-best defensive record (17 goals allowed). The likes of Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena have been vital in FC Goa's defensive improvement.
"It is good that we have improved defensively. It was one of the goals before the season started and I am happy about that. I think every time you improve defensively. You look at defenders or goalkeeper. But I think we have improved defensively as a whole. Therefore, I am happy with the way we are working defensively and also in a collective way," said Lobera.
FC Goa has the aura of a well-oiled outfit that is firing collectively. They will fancy their chances against Bengaluru FC who are not in the best of forms.
Bengaluru secured just one win from their last five matches and qualified for the playoffs mostly due to their brilliant run of form in the initial part of the season. They have now lost momentum and the top spot in the league.
Coach Carles Cuadrat has mostly opted to rest his key players and rotate the squad ahead of the playoffs, and that has seen the team struggle to find rhythm post the winter break.
With a free-flowing FC Goa coming to town, Cuadrat's priority will be to get back to winning ways and start gathering momentum with the playoffs very close.
Bengaluru will also hope that Miku finds his scoring boots soon, given that the Venezuelan is yet to score after coming back from injury.
"Miku is having a sort of pre-season. He is trying to be fit again, and you can see that his numbers and performance aren't at the level that it was before the injury. But we have time. We hope he can be back to that level in the next two weeks," said Cuadrat.
Captain Sunil Chhetri should start the game against FC Goa after coming off the bench to score a goal in their 2-3 defeat to Delhi Dynamos. Luisma should get a look in for this match. But the Blues will have to deal with an imminent FC Goan attack without defender Albert Serran who is suspended.