A mini-playoff before the actual playoff! FC Goa and Hyderabad FC will fight it out for the final playoff berth in the Indian Super League at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao, Goa on Sunday.
After 19 games, these 90 minutes will decide the fate of both clubs who have stayed in the reckoning all season.
Goa are in pole position and need just a point to reach the final four. However, coach Juan Ferrando stated that his team won’t play for a point. “Every game you have pressure. The mentality of this club is to get three points every game. Of course tomorrow we need three points, it’s because the mentality of this club is high,” he said.
Goa have been one of the most feared sides in the competition and their attacking prowess has earned them crucial points. However, their defensive abilities are questionable with the club conceding 23 goals.
The Gaurs are on a 12-match unbeaten run and scoring isn’t a problem for Ferrando’s side. Goa have made a habit of scoring late in games and have grabbed crucial points this way. And Ferrando hopes to carry on with the same plan.
“We want to play in attack (mode) because we need to win. We have the same plan. If we are winning 1-0, our mentality will be to get the second goal. If they score against us, we go to get the goal to make it 1-1 and then go to score the second. I am happy and with this mentality, it’s possible to improve this team,” Ferrando said.
Hyderabad would need to go all out against Goa as they need nothing less than three points to remain in the competition. Coach Manuel Marquez was expecting favours from NorthEast United FC but his expectations were dashed when they beat Kerala Blasters with ease.
“It would have been better if NorthEast had lost both games. Now the only thing we can do is to congratulate not only ATKMB and Mumbai City FC, but NorthEast too for their fantastic season,” quipped Marquez.
“I think the mood has been good from the first day and it’s like a knockout clash as the team which wins will continue in this competition. More or less, it is like a final. It will be a tough game,” he said.
Hyderabad will be on the back foot as Goa just need a draw to progress and the coach felt that was a disadvantage in this tie.
“Of course, it’s just mathematics. At the end of the season, the best teams will be in the top four and other teams will be in 5,6,7 positions,” Marquez said.
Hyderabad who finished second from bottom in the league last season have seen massive improvement under Marquez who has not just got them playing an eye-catching brand of football but also produced results.
The only criticism of the Nizams has been their failure to convert draws into victories. Hyderabad have drawn 10 games this season, the only team apart from Chennaiyin to have drawn over 50% of their games in a season.
If they are to progress into the semi-finals they will have to break that jinx. It will be a tough ask against Goa who are a tough nut to crack. However, Hyderabad have surprised many with their season so far and the biggest surprise might be in store for the final day.
As for Goa, they’ll hope their firepower turns up for yet another game as they aim to reach the semi-finals yet again.
It promises to be a cracking contest and given the nature of the league this season, the game will go down to the wire.