Goa vs Punjab: Preview and Prediction
Having failed to reach the playoffs for the past two seasons, the Gaurs roped in former ISL-winning coach Manolo Marquez, and have backed the Spaniard in the transfer market. While the likes of Edu Bedia, and Iker Guarrotxena will be a big miss, the club have signed plenty of experienced Indian and foreign players.
Only Noah Sadaoui was retained from last year, while Carlos Martinez, Odei Onaindia, Victor Rodriguez, Paulo Retre, and Carl McHugh signed in the summer to form a star-studded foreign continent. Jhingan, Rowlin Borges, Raynier Fernandes, Boris Singh, Narayan Das, and Udanta Singh headline the domestic arrivals.
Punjab meanwhile suffered a 3-1 defeat to Mohun Bagan Super Giant in their opening game of the season and they will be looking to bounce back from that loss. For a second week running, Staikos Vergetis’s men will be on the road as they will travel to the Fatorda Stadium on Monday.
Punjab head coach Vergetis discussed the first match and how the team is adapting to the pace of the top-tier league.
“In the first game, we got a result that was not good for us. We had some good periods but we have to increase those in the coming games. We will try to play more minutes of good football and I am sure that it will come to us on a game-to-game basis.”
“Generally, there are more transitions in the ISL games. We can see many transitions with the ball moving very quickly from one area to another. There are even continuous transitions at times. It makes the game more interesting, beautiful, and faster.”
Luka Majcen scored a consolation goal against the Mariners last week, and the only club from North India in the league will have their work cut out against Manolo Marquez’s side. Majcen scored 16 goals last year and has already opened his tally for the season, but the defensive frailties could be a major issue as they face the big boys.
The Gaurs didn’t feature on matchday 1 after their game against Hyderabad was postponed since many of their key players were unavailable as they travelled to China for the Asian Games.
In the Durand Cup, the Gaurs topped their group after beating Shillong Lajong, and Downtown Heroes, while they were held to a draw by NorthEast United. In the quarter-final, they beat Chennaiyin 4-1 before losing to eventual champions MBSG 2-1 in the semi-final. During their pre-season, the club defeated Dempo and Inter Kashi 4-1, before claiming a narrow 1-0 win over Gokulam Kerala.
Vergetis’ men lost their opening game, having failed to record a single win in their past six outings. After romping to the I-League title last year losing just twice, and winning a whopping 52 points, Punjab was paired in the group of death in Durand Cup, alongside Mohun Bagan SG and East Bengal.
They would end up losing both their games against the Kolkata giants, sandwiched between a 0-0 draw with the Bangladesh Army. In their pre-season, the team defeated Kerala Blasters 3-2 back in August. The Shers also failed to win two of their matches in the Punjab Super League, meaning the Greek coach has plenty to improve upon.
These two sides have never faced off against each other and Monday’s fixture will be the first competitive meeting between these teams.
The trio of Sandesh Jhingan, Dheeraj Singh, and Ayush Chhetri are expected to be back in India but it remains to be seen whether they will feature in their side’s inaugural game.
Sandesh played every minute of India’s four fixtures at the Asian Games so the central defender might be rested for the fixture and eased back into action later for the Odisha fixture.
Apart from the aforementioned trio, Marquez will have the luxury to pick from a fully fit squad. Arshdeep Singh is expected to start in goal and McHugh and Onaindia are expected to marshal the defense with Jay Gupta and Seriton Fernandes as full-backs.
Rowllin Borges and Raynier Fernandes are expected to be in the engine room with the trio of Noah Sadaoui, Brandon Fernandes, and Udanta Singh playing behind striker Carlos Martinez.
Similarly, the Shers will also welcome back Amarjit Singh Kiyam but it remains to be seen whether the midfielder will start from the get-go or feature off the bench after his Asian Games exploits.
Vergetis too will get to choose from a fully fit roster and he will hope the likes of Majcen, Prasanth K, Mashoor Shereef, and Nikhil Prabhu can build on their performances last week.
Predicted Starting XIs
Goa (4-2-3-1): Arshdeep Singh; Seriton Fernandes, Odei Onaindia, Carl McHugh, Jay Gupta; Rowllin Borges, Raynier Fernandes; Noah Sadaoui, Brandon Fernandes, Udanta Singh; Carlos Martinez.
Punjab (4-4-2): Kiran Chemjong; Khaiminthang Lhungdim, Melroy Melwin Assisi, Nikhil Prabhu, Mohamed Salah; Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Brandon Vanlalremdika, Ashish Pradhan, Juan Mera; Luka Majcen, Madih Talal.
Considering the recent form of both clubs, the Gaurs will feel they will be favorites for all three points. Marquez is an astute tactician, and he will definitely devour a plan to claim all three points in front of their home support while Punjab would be hoping to earn their first-ever points in the ISL.