With a place in the Hero Super Cup 2019 final on the line, Chennai City FC and FC Goa will face off in the first semi-final at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. Chennai knocked out last year’s champions Bengaluru FC in the quarter-finals, while Goa overcame a tough challenge from fellow Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) team Jamshedpur FC to reach the last four of the competition.
A day prior to the match, Chennai City head coach Akbar Nawas addressed the media at the pre-match press conference. Sharing his views on the contest, the Hero I-League 2018-19 winning head coach said, “We will have a tough game against FC Goa. One thing is for sure that if I was FC Goa, I would want to do something because we lost in the Hero ISL final and came second in the league. Normally when you finish second in the league, you have that added desire to win a Cup competition. They have unfinished business. That’s what happened to Bengaluru last year. They lost the league to Chennaiyin but won the Hero Super Cup. We have to be very careful.”
Asked about the similarities and differences between his team and their opponents for Tuesday, Nawas opined, “There are certain similarities. Goa like to build from the back but there are a lot of dissimilarities as well. I don’t want to talk about these because these are very technical. I will discuss that with my technical team.”
The Goa defence has looked vulnerable at times this season and struggled in the second half against Jamshedpur in their last match. Quizzed if that might be something he will look to take advantage of on Tuesday, Nawas said, “Every team has weaknesses you can exploit and we have to try and do that. But suppose, based on the last four or five games, we decide that they have a weak defence and we want to exploit that. But what if tomorrow they tighten the backline, play with a more compact midfield? We have to be prepared for all eventualities.”
Commenting on the performance of his Indian defenders in the previous match against Bengaluru, Nawas said, “I think the Indian defenders did well against Bengaluru. They did some things well and prevented Bengaluru from getting goal scoring chances. They also didn’t do some things wrong but got away with that. We have to fix this. The question is if they make the same mistakes and get away with it again. We will have to wait and see.”
From Goa’s end, head coach Sergio Lobera was present at the briefing. Speaking about his team’s preparations before facing a strong Chennai City side, the Spaniard said, “We are facing the current champions of the Hero I-League. We are also facing the team that has defeated Bengaluru, who are the current Hero ISL champions. They are playing good football. They have a few Spanish players. It is a team that is very balanced in every position. They are very well organised. There are similarities in the way we play. Tomorrow, the fans will be able to see a very great game,” he said.
He also heaped further praise on Chennai City and added, “I have been watching them. You need to be aware of what’s in the market, not just in the Hero ISL. I have been following this team for a very long time and they have been doing really well.”
With Edu Bedia missing the tie through suspension, Lobera will have to find a solution to ensure the Spanish playmaker’s absence doesn’t become a handicap for his team. “It is true that Edu Bedia is an important player for us. But he is missing. It will be one weakness for us. But tomorrow, we will put up a team that will be competitive enough to approach the game and try to reach the final,” he affirmed.