East Bengal vs Goa: Preview and Prediction
The 2023-24 Indian Super League season will resume with a mouth-watering clash between East Bengal and Goa on Saturday. Although a home match for East Bengal, the game will be played at Odisha’s home ground Kalinga Stadium owing to the ongoing Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata.
East Bengal surely looks better than last season, but they still will be disappointed with their start after a great Durand Cup campaign. With one win, one loss and one draw, the Red and Golds are placed seventh in the standings with 4 points in 3 games.
On the other hand, Goa has had a perfect start to their new season. Under the guidance of the highly rated Manuel Marquez, the Gaurs are looking like a real title contender and have won both of their games so far. With 6 points in 2 matches, they are placed third in the standings.
The Goa head coach praised Carles Cuadrat’s East Bengal ahead of the match and is looking forward to a couple of reunions on the neutral ground in Bhubaneshwar.
The Spaniard said,
“Very good team. Very good players. They went to the final in the Durand Cup. They have signed very good players, two of them were with me last season: Borja Herrera and Javi Siviero who worked with me in Spain as well. We are playing against a very strong team but we would need to play well to come out with a win.”
When the head coach was questioned about Brandon’s injury or any other injury concerns, he cited, “Yesterday, we trained with all 25 players and every one of them is available. Five players who came from the bench played very good cameos and you want it to be competitive.”
What have they done so far?
East Bengal started their campaign on home turf against a comparatively weaker team in Jamshedpur, but they could not capitalize on their opponent’s weaknesses. As a result of plenty of missed opportunities, the Torchbearers had to settle for a 0-0 draw.
But in the second match against Hyderabad, Carles Cuadrat’s boys made a great comeback. Thanks to a Cleiton Silva brace, they defeated the Nizams by a 2-1 margin. Having said that, all of their progress was undone when they succumbed to a 1-2 loss against Bengaluru in their last match, with missed opportunities haunting the team yet again.
Goa’s first game against Hyderabad was postponed with the Indian team being busy at the Asian Games, but in their second match, they defeated the newly promoted Punjab by a 1-0 margin. Spanish striker Carlos Martinez scored the only goal in that game.
The second game against a strong Odisha team was an absolute thriller, but Roca’s team managed to beat former Goa coach, Sergio Lobera’s side by a 3-2 margin. Noah Sadaoui scored a brace, while the other goal was scored by the young left-back, Jay Gupta.
Head to Head Record
When it comes to head-to-head records, Goa is miles ahead of East Bengal. These two teams have met on six occasions, with the Gaurs winning three of those games while the Torchbearers won only once. The other two matches ended in stalemates.
The last meeting, which took place back in January this year, saw Goa getting a 4-2 win. An Iker Guarrotxena brace and a Brandon Fernandes strike comprised Goa’s four goals, while for East Bengal, VP Suhair and Sarthak Golui were on the scoresheet.
Considering his team suffered their first defeat in the last match against Bengaluru, it will be understandable if Cuadrat makes quite a few changes to his team, so as to avoid a second consecutive defeat on the trot.
Nishu Kumar looked shaky against the Blues, and given that Goa will have an in-form and highly dangerous Sadaoui running down their left flank, Cuadrat could opt for more experience by switching Harmanjot Singh Khabra back to the right-back position.
Central defender Jose Antonio Pardo also did not look too convincing, so in his place, new Jordanian recruit Hijazi Maher could be handed his debut. Besides that, Souvik Chakraborty can be used in the vacant midfield slot once Khabra returns to the back four.
On the flip side, though Roca’s team won the last game against Odisha, they did look troubled on more than one occasion, which could mean there will be changes in the Goa starting XI as well.
Although the backline could remain untouched, the double pivot of Raynier Fernandes and Carl McHugh did not quite work out against the Kalinga Warriors. Hence, Raynier could be replaced by Rowllin Borges. Former Elche and Getafe attacker Victor Rodriguez could be handed a start in place of Martinez who was not at his best in the last game.
Predicted Starting XIs
East Bengal (4-2-3-1): Prabhsukhan Gill; Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Lalchungnunga, Hijazi Maher, Mandar Rao Dessai; Saul Crespo, Souvik Chakraborty, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Borja Herrera, Nandhakumar Sekar; Cleiton Silva.
Goa (4-2-3-1): Arshdeep Singh; Seriton Fernandes, Odei Onaindia, Sandesh Jhingan, Jay Gupta; Rowllin Borges, Carl McHugh; Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Noah Sadaoui; Victor Rodriguez.
Although their current position does not accurately present how East Bengal has performed this season, given that they should have won against both Bengaluru and Jamshedpur if they were clinical enough, the Torchbearers will be starting this game as the underdogs.
Goa will be high on confidence after a last-gasp winner against Odisha, while their head-to-head advantage will add a psychological edge. To add to all of that, East Bengal will not have their 12th man in the fans cheering for the team, with the crowd in Bhubaneswar expected to have a fair representation of both sides.