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FC Goa take on high-flying Kerala Blasters in crucial clash

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Mumbai: Having lost just two out of six matches so far at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, home comfort will be key for FC Goa as they take on Kerala Blasters in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday.

The Gaurs, currently in sixth place on the table with 20 points, will eye the three points and a win over the Yellow Army as they continue to eye a playoff spot at the end of the league stage next month.

That said, a victory will not happen easily for the Men in Orange against Ivan Vukomanovic and co, who beat them 3-1 in the reverse fixture held in November. The Kochi-based outfit are also in a run of good form, having lost just one game in the last nine outings.

Currently in third place, they would also look to build on their recent form with another positive result on Sunday.

FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena expressed confidence in his team’s abilities, speaking in the lead-up to the clash against Kerala Blasters.

“We’re focused fully on ourselves and what we can do tomorrow. I expect a tough game, but I’m sure the opposition feels the same way. We’ve consistently made things difficult for the visiting teams at home, and the objective remains the same,” the 38-year-old said at the pre-match press conference on Saturday.

The Gaurs have played four matches since their most recent win over NorthEast United in December. The Spaniard revealed his hopes for a turnaround in fortunes starting Sunday, ahead of their remaining matches.

“We’ve played well mostly, and challenged our opposition more often than not. Our results, however, have not been favourable off late. But we’re still in the race for the playoffs and we have the quality in our squad to get there.

“There are six games left for us, and each one of those is extremely important. It may be true that there are a few clubs outside the top six who are also close to the playoffs, but that does not worry us because we want to help ourselves. The best way to do that is to focus on ourselves first,” Pena signed off.

The Task Ahead

As mentioned earlier, the two teams faced each other last in November, when goals from Adrian Luna, Dimitrios Diamantakos and Ivan Kaliuzhnyi helped Kerala Blasters beat FC Goa 3-1. Noah Sadaoui’s strike offered very little consolation for the Gaurs.

Since then, Ivan Vukomanovic and co set off on an eight-game unbeaten run that recently ended at the hands of Mumbai City.

On Sunday, the Men in Orange would look to arrest the Yellow Army’s run further, and look for the three points themselves.

The Blasters have been handed setbacks in the form of defender Marko Leskovic’s injury and forward Rahul KP’s suspension, while the hosts have a fully-fit squad. Carlos Pena will surely look to use this to his advantage in the upcoming clash.

A victory will help the Gaurs climb to fifth place, replacing Odisha FC who are currently on 22 points. Kerala Blasters, meanwhile, will also look for a win that would result in them consolidating their third place, above the likes of ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa.

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