The Gaurs have a tough task ahead of them when they take on Chennaiyin FC in the second leg of the second semi-final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday, 13th March 2018. Anirudh Thapa’s equalizing goal ensured that the Marina Machas took home an important away goal from a tight encounter in Goa. Manuel Lanzarote opened the scoring against John Gregory’s men but young Thapa put a spanner in the works for the Gaurs with his equalizer.
Sergio Lobera is likely to stick to a similar side that faced off against Chennaiyin in the first semi-final. Laxmikant Kattimani was instrumental in keeping Chennaiyin down to only goal with some stunning saves in the second half and looks likely to keep his place in the starting 11 despite the return of Naveen Kumar who has kept two clean sheets in the tournament. Sergio Juste and Chinglensana Singh have been excellent in defence and should be in contention to start in Chennai despite both, Bruno Pinheiro and Ali Mohammad passing fitness tests. Seriton Fernandes has been an unsung hero in what has largely been a fantastic campaign for the side and he will walk back into the team. Narayan Das looks likely to start at left back.
Hugo Boumous’ return to fitness will be vital to the Gaurs’ chances and it will be interesting to see the midfield combination that Sergio opts to go with. Pronay Halder has proved his value to the side with some astonishing performances from midfield alongside Ahmed Jahouh. It will be a toss-up between Edu Bedia and Hugo for the attacking midfield role. Brandon Fernandes is also back from injury and Sergio will have a selection headache as he will have to choose one of Mandar Rao Dessai or Brandon to occupy one wing while Manuel Lanzarote looks certain to start on the other flank. Ferran Corominas failed to score in the first leg, but it was his shot that led to the opening goal for the Gaurs. He will want to get on the scoresheet and carry his team to the final.
The Marina Machas are a well-organized unit and are tough to break down. The Gaurs have to score in Chennai to stay in the competition and will find it difficult to get past this back four. In Mailson Alves and Henrique Sereno, Chennai have arguably the best central defensive pairing in the league. Inigo Calderon is an experienced campaigner and will be up for the contest against Goa while youngster Jerry Lalrinzuala will look forward to the battle with Lanzarote. The four of them will have their work cut out for them against a prolific attack. On the other hand, the Gaurs’ leaky defence will have to be up to the mark to keep out the likes of Gregory Nelson who was a thorn in their side in Goa. Additionally, players like Raphael Augusto and Jeje Lalpekhlua will be a handful on the counter-attack. A win for either side will take them through to the finals, while a goalless draw will see Chennaiyin go through on the away goal rule. A 1-1 draw will ensure that the match goes into stoppage time while a draw involving more than two goals will ensure that the Gaurs make it to the summit clash against Bengaluru FC.
Sergio was positive about his team’s chances of progression and said, “We are the highest scoring team in the competition and we have the highest scoring players as well. The style of football we employ definitely puts us at a risk of conceding but at the other end, we are capable of scoring against any team. I would definitely take another 3-2 victory over here in Chennai like we did on the first match day.”
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