A vastly improved Chennaiyin FC (CFC) will take on the ever-consistent and fluent FC Goa in the first-leg semifinal of the Indian Super League here on Saturday.
The contest between two extremely attack-minded teams — table topper FC Goa has scored 46 while CFC has converted 32 in 18 league matches — is likely to provide an entertaining fare. But will defence be given the short-shrift in the high-intensity clash?
Striker Nerijus Valskis has scored 13 goals, and has been the star for the host while his counterpart Ferran Corominas has been invaluable with 14 goals and four assists for FC Goa.
The 53-year-old Scot, at the pre-match press conference here on Friday, said that the defenders would play a key role.
“I think both defences have a huge part to play. Both sets of attacks are good — forwards and midfielders. We are very much changed since I came in [as to] how we play and shape up. Both operate with two foreign centre-backs, both with two good full-backs.
“Defenders have to stand up and be counted against wonderful attacking players,” said Coyle.
Conceding 23 goals in the league isn’t a cause for concern, countered FC Goa interim coach Clifford Miranda, but conceded that the backline would prove to be crucial. “I think we are doing very good. We are doing well defensively. Everyone knows our style, we takes risks in play, we practise attacking football and sometimes you end up conceding. Tomorrow [Saturday] we will have to pay attention to this,” he said.
This season, FC Goa has won both its home and away matches against CFC, but Coyle refused to believe that it will have an impact in the semifinals.
“The bearing of the two league games have no significance on the playoffs. For a start, I have lost only once to Goa [referring to the 3-4 defeat at home],” he said.
According to Coyle, Andre Schembri might be available while Dragos [Firtulescu} is doubtful. Miranda revealed that CFC was one team that everyone loved to avoid. “Chennaiyin started really bad but since they changed the manager, they’ve improved a lot. CFC is the most difficult team, in my opinion. One team we would have wanted to avoid,” he said.
Will the clash witness a goal-glut or will it turn out to be an anti-climax?