FC Goa put Indian club football on the premier Asian club football competition map when they held Al Rayyan to a goalless draw on their debut in the AFC Champions League. The Gaurs caught the fancy of the football fans at home with their valiant performance in the last game against the Qatari side. They face yet another uphill task in the form of Al Wahda who are 12 season veterans of the Champions League. While Goa has got their first points on board, Al Wahda suffered a defeat in their opening encounter against Persepolis and will be looking to bounce back to winning ways, while FC Goa will look to consolidate on their solid start.
Know Your Opponents:
Al Wahda based out of Abu Dhabi in the UAE qualified for the AFC Champions League after toppling Iraqi side Al Zawra in the qualifiers. Managed by former Ajax boss Henk ten Cate, Wahda plays in the UAE Pro League and are currently placed 8th in the table 15 points off the top position. Al Wahda is 4 times the champions of the Pro League, their last championship coming almost a decade back during the 2009-10 season. They had made the semi-finals of the AFC Champions league in 2007 but their performance has dipped in the competition in the last decade where they have managed to qualify out of the group stages only once in 2019, losing out in the Round of 16.
Players to watch out for:
When you are talking about Al Wahda how could you not talk about Tim Matavz. The 32-year old Slovenian striker is the key for the Emirati side to unlock the best of defences. In the UAE Pro League, the former Vitesse (Eredivisie side) striker has already bagged 9 goals in 16 games and will be gunning to get his name on the scoresheet in the AFC Champions League. Matavz makes up for only one half of Al Wahda’s lethal attack, with Syrian striker Omar Khirbin for company. The Syrian joined Al Wahda in January and has made an instant impact scoring 7 goals in 10 matches. Both Matavz and Khirbin failed to open their account in the last game and will be itching to score which could be a concern for a resolute Goan defence. Khalil Ibrahim was preferred ahead of veteran club legend Ismaeil Matar against Persepolis by Cate but the decision seems to have backfired. Matar who is 38, is a Wahda man through and through. Product of their youth system, Matar has been a Wahda player since 2002 and in his 20 games this season the man has scored 7 goals and created another 8 and we could expect him to start against Goa.
FC Goa will have to rely heavily on James Donaiche, Ivan Gonzalez and Edu Bedia to negate the attacking threat that Al Wahda possess. Donaiche and Gonzalez have been impressive in the heart of that Goan defence under Juan Fernando in the ISL and they had a great game against Al Rayyan too. Edu Bedia as a defensive screen ahead of these two will make life difficult for the Emirati side. All 3 players are very secure with the ball on their feet and their distribution skills while playing out from the back could help unlock Al Wahda’s defence. Eyes will also be on Glan Martins who had a stellar game against Al Rayyan impressing everyone with work ethics. It will be interesting to see if Juan Fernando is able to bring his attacking options more into the game against Al Wahda and how the likes Brandon, Pandita and Ortiz performs.
FC Goa made history by becoming the first Indian club to play in the AFC Champions League and they proved against Al Rayyan that they are not just going to be pushovers in Group E but they are here to compete. Al Wahda is probably the easier of the 3 clubs in the group and Juan Fernando will be egging his boys to make the most against the Emirati side. FC Goa has got football fans dreaming in India and will they dream continue or will Al Wahda hand them a rude wake up call.
Match facts :
Kick off – 8:00 pm (IST)
Venue – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda
Telecast – Star Sports 3, Hotstar, Jio TV
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