Bengaluru vs Goa: Preview and Prediction
Bengaluru and their winning streak of seven straight games have become the talk of the town in the 2022-23 edition of the Indian Super League. The Blues will be now facing the challenge of Goa in the last chapter of their incredible turnaround of playoffs. The high-profile battle between two ambitious neighbors will be taking place on Matchday 20 at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in the Karnataka capital on Wednesday.
Bengaluru is just a befitting finish away from pulling off one of the greatest comebacks of all time in the Indian top-flight league history. The Scottish BFC gaffer Simon Grayson is keen to sustain further this momentum and take the triumphal chariot into the knockouts. They have already made it official that the Karnataka-based outfit will be featuring in the knockout stages for the first time since 2020.
Goa is standing on 27 points from 19 games and has currently occupied the seventh position in the points table. Only winning the final league fixture won’t be enough for the Margao-based club as they will also have to pray for Odisha to drop the points in their forthcoming match. Hence the Juggernauts’ clash with the Red Miners which is scheduled on Wednesday will decide whether the Gaurs will be able to achieve their seventh playoff qualification or not.
The Karnataka-based outfit is thriving on an invincible run from the last seven fixtures and has not dropped a single point since the ISL caravan entered into the 2023 year. Bengaluru became the first team to end an 18-match unbeaten run of the reigning ISL Shield winners Mumbai City this season after defeating them in their recent appearance. Captain Sunil Chhetri opened the scoreline against his former side while the Spaniard Javi Hernandez also graced the scoresheet in a 2-1 triumph.
On the other hand, the Gaurs who were putting up a strong contention for the playoff round are now standing on verge of elimination from the knockout race. The Margao-based club has dropped eight points from their last three fixtures and will have to depend on Odisha’s clash with Jamshedpur in order to advance to the next stage. Despite dominating the field play, they still suffered a crushing 1-2 defeat at the hands of the familiar foes Chennaiyin on the previous matchday.
Bengaluru is among the very few elite ISL sides against whom the inaugural ISL Shield winners do not have a positive head-to-head record. These two neighborhood rivals have squared off in the country’s top-flight football league on 12 occasions to date.
The Karnataka Blues are leading the head-to-head record with six wins while the Gaurs have managed to emerge victorious only on three occasions and three encounters could not produce any results. The most famous chapter of this rivalry occurred in the finals of the 2018-19 edition when BFC edged past the Uzzo Army to lift their maiden ISL title.
Due to the Covid pandemic, both face-offs between them in the previous season were staged at the GMC Athletic Stadium of Bambolim. A 70th-minute goal in the first chapter from the local lad Devendra Murgaonkar turned out to be the winning strike in a 2-1 triumph for the Gaurs. Meanwhile, the returning clash witnessed a neck-to-neck contest which eventually resulted in a 1-1 settlement at the full-time.
Bengaluru gaffer Simon Grayson previously handed a surprising start to the legendary Indian striker Sunil Chhetri in place of Roy Krishna who was not even included in the matchday squad. The 38-year-old established a great link-up with the youngster Sivashakthi Narayanan and also scored the opening goal of the game. Javi Hernandez is also expected to be rested ahead of playoffs while another Spaniard playmaker Pablo Perez is likely to replace his countryman.
Speculations of the exclusion of Dheeraj Singh from the Goan starting eleven are roaming, especially after conceding seven goals from the last two appearances. The Chandigarh-born goalie Arshdeep Singh Saini is likely to guard the Gaurs’ goal if the Goan gaffer Carlos Pena decides to drop the first-choice keeper. Another expected change in the Gaurs’ starting XI is Devendra Murgaonkar making way for the Meghalaya winger Redeem Tlang.
Predicted Starting XIs
Bengaluru (3-5-2): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Alan Costa, Sandesh Jhingan, Parag Shrivas; Prabir Das, Suresh Wangjam, Rohit Kumar, Pablo Perez, Naorem Roshan Singh; Sivashakthi Narayanan, Sunil Chhetri ©
Goa (4-2-3-1): Arshdeep Singh; Seriton Fernandes, Fares Arnaout, Anwar Ali, Saviour Gama; Ayush Chhetri, Edu Bedia ©; Redeem Tlang, Brandon Fernandes, Noah Sadaoui; Iker Guarrotxena
Whether it’s the current form or head-to-head record or on-paper strength, each and every aspect of prediction is favoring the Blues to emerge victorious from this contest. However, Goa has a bigger need to claim all three points from here and the Gaurs will be going all-out to survive the do-or-die circumstances.
As the Karnataka Blues will be turning up for this battle with a defensive approach to preserve some of their key knights and tactics for the doomsday nights.