A desperate Kerala Blasters FC will look to narrow the gap between them and those above them when they take on the might of FC Goa in an Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru in Kochi on Sunday.
Kerala have only one win to show for their efforts in six games, and that was in the opening game of the season against ATK. They are now winless in five games with four draws and a loss against Bengaluru FC in the previous fixture.
To win games, you need to score more than your opposition, and David James' side have not been scoring goals galore. They will need their forwards to fire against a free-scoring Goa side and make the most of whatever chances they create.
Ferran Corominas, who didn't have the best of outings against Delhi Dynamos earlier this week, will look to make amends and take the lead in the race to win the Golden Boot. He already has six goals to his name and also has four assists.
Edu Bedia seems to be in devastating form this season. The Spanish midfielder has scored some outrageous goals and Kerala Blasters certainly need to be wary of him. Hugo Boumous too has been in striking form and the same was acknowledged by Singto.
"It is not about Coro only, they have Bedia and Boumous who are equally talented. We need to focus on Goa as a team," Kerala Blasters assistant coach Thangboi Singto said.
The good news for Lobera is that Brandon Fernandes is fully fit and also scored a goal in their previous game which would boost his confidence.
Can Goa continue marauding through the opposition with their all-out attack approach or will Kerala at last register their first home win? An intriguing affair at Kochi awaits.
SQUAD: Kerala's centre backs Sandesh Jhingan and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic will have the unflattering task of keeping quiet a rampant Goa attack that boasts the likes of Ferran Corominas and Edu bedia. Anas Edathodika may be handed his first start of the season if the manager opts to shore up his defence seeing the attacking force of their opponent.
The Gaurs were initially criticised for their over-reliance on star striker Ferran Corominas who has been in a fantastic form. He leads the race for the Golden Boot with six goals to his name as well as the assists chart after laying off four assists. Goa indeed struggled when he was absent against Jamshedpur. However, in the match against Delhi -- where Corominas was uncharacteristically off-colour -- Edu Bedia steppted up and scored a brace to bring his team from behind to win the game.
Bedia has also been a big threat going forward and nwo has four goals and an assist to his name. If Kerala are to take anything away from this game, they will need to not just keep Corominas silent, but also stop Edu Bedia.
MANAGERS SPEAK: Speaking on the eve of the game, Singto said Kerala would look to exploit the defensive frailites shown by FC Goa.
"With due respect to Goa, we know they are an attacking team but if you see their record, they really do concede goals also. We as a team should definitely start to win," Kerala Blasters assistant coach Thangboi Singto said.
Singto's observation is no rocket science. Goa coach Sergio Lobera's mantra of outscoring opponents is working fine as they find themselves at the summit of the ISL table.
They also have the best goal difference and have scored 18 goals from six games with an average of three per match. However, they have a fragile defence which Kerala Blasters will be looking to target.
"We play an attacking form of football which means we have to take more risks. I think it is (going to be) a good game. I consider Kerala to be a direct rival for us. If the assistant coach of Kerala said they can score goals against us, it is going to be a good game, but if we can score one more, I will be going home happy," the FC Goa coach said.
FORM: Kerala started the season brightly with an away win against ATK but went on to drew their next four fixtures before suffering a narrow defeat against Bengaluru in their last outing. David James' men have been wasteful in front of the goal as have shown lapses of concentration at the back, especially late in the game -- Kerala have lost out on five points this season due to goals conceded in the final ten minutes of regulation time.
The Super Machans have also struggled in front of their fans -- out of their last 12 matches in their own backyard, Kerala have managed to win just twice, draw seven and lost the rest.
Kerala have scored eight goals from 29 shots on target. They have the passing accuracy of 69.51 per cent and have managed to keep one clean sheet.
FC Goa had a brilliant start to the season which saw them register a draw and three wins in their first four outings, before suffering their first loss away to Jamshedpur FC. Sergio Lobera's men made sure the loss was an abberation as they bounced back in style in their last match against Delhi Dynamos FC to pick up another win.
The Gaurs have been prolific as an attacking unit, scoring 18 goals in just six matches -- the most by any team so far. However, their all-out attacking approach has left the team vulenrable at the back and Goa have conceded 11 goals.
FC Goa have scored 18 goals from 36 shots on target. They have the passing accuracy of 77.52 per cent but have been able to keep just one clean sheet.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Kerala Blasters and FC Goa have faced each other eight times with FC Goa winning five of those matches while Kerala have won three contests.
Kerala Blasters FC: Naveen Kumar (GK), Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Cyril Kali, Mohamad Rakip, Sandesh Jhingan (C), Nikola Krcmarevic, Seiminlen Doungel, Sahal Abdul Samad, Slavisa Stojanovic, Matej Poplatnik, CK Vineeth
FC Goa: Mohammad Nawaz (GK), Chinglensana Singh, Mourtada Fall, Seriton Fernandes, Mandar Rao Dessai (C), Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Lenny Rodrigues, Edu Bedia, Jackichand Singh, Ferran Corominas