Apart from winning the Indian Super League title itself, FC Goa have seen it all. They finished top of the league table in 2015. Later, they were beaten 3-2 by Chennaiyin FC in what has to be the most controversial final in the ISL’s short history. They finished rock bottom the very next season and then third in 2017/18 despite scoring the most number of goals.
Goa did look like the team to beat for a better part of last season but a horrid period between January 28 and February 21 saw them losing three and drawing two. They came back in spectacular fashion, scoring 12 goals in their final three matches of the league and conceding just one.
They relied on their goal scoring prowess last season, as is evident by the fact that only Mumbai City, Delhi Dynamos and ATK conceded more goals than them, all of whom finished in the bottom four. The season’s top scorer Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote led the way on this front. The Spaniards accounted for a combined 31 goals, which is a higher tally than what eight of other teams in the league managed.
But they start this season with one part of this pair missing. Come Saturday, Lanzarote will be walking out in ATK colours in the opener against Kerala Blasters at the Salt Lake Stadium. He stated in an Instagram post that the reason for his departure was a “personal problem with the coach and I didn’t want to work with him.”
FC Goa are one of three teams to have retained their head coach from the 2017/18 season. Sergio Lobera’s tactics helped him pick up the team from the train wreck of the 2016 season at the end of his predecessor Zico’s time at the helm and there is little reason to think Goa will play any different from the way they were playing in 2017/18. Jesus Tato, who played for FC Pune City in 2016, is his assistant coach.
ALSO READ | After AFC Cup upset, Bengaluru FC eye redemption
Laxmikant Kattimani’s position as FC Goa’s regular goalkeeper could be challenged by Lalthuammawia Ralte who has been signed from Bengaluru FC. The 25-year-old has developed a reputation for his good footwork and distribution; abilities that fit well in Lobera’s system.
They have also retained the services of Moroccan Ahmed Jahouh. As far as holding midfielders go, Jahouh was the best in the league last season, topping the charts for the number of passes (1625 with 80.24 percent accuracy) and tackles (105). He could be expected to pair up with Lenny Rodrigues who was signed from Bengaluru FC.
One shouldn’t be mistaken into thinking that Lanzarote’s departure will take the sting out of Goa’s attack. Miguel Palanca is an almost like-for-like replacement while big things are expected from 24-year-old winger Brandon Fernandes.