Lobera confident ahead of the big final, Gregory bestows 'favourites' tag on Goa
FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC lock horns at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Saturday in a bid to claim the title of Hero Super Cup 2019 champions. This will be the second meeting in a tournament's final between these two teams, having previously squared off in the title-decider of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) back in 2015. Chennaiyin came out on top the last time, but the Gaurs will be eager to reverse the script this time around.
At the pre-match press conference, a day prior to the match, Goa head coach Sergio Lobera addressed the media and spoke about his team's preparations for the big match and said, "We are approaching this final in the same way we approached the last one - with a lot of excitement. We are working on the same path as we did in the last games. We have to be able to handle the emotions. We are doing nothing special. We just want to approach it with the right attitude."
Speaking about Chennaiyin's recent resurgence after a poor Hero ISL season, Lobera commented, "They completely deserve to be in the final. They have been superior to the other teams. They have a very bad experience from the Hero ISL season. Tomorrow, we are facing a tough team who are similar to the old Chennaiyin team."
In the semi-finals, Goa overcame another team from Chennai - the Hero I-League champions Chennai City FC. Commenting on the difference between the two challenges, the Spaniard opined, "Every game is completely different. It's true that we beat the Hero I-League champions. But every game will be completely different. Chennai City are a more offensive team. They don’t mind going out there and playing one on one game. Chennaiyin are a more measured team. They are more compact and more aggressive."
Goa have lost both their final appearances in the past, most recently the Hero ISL 2018-19 title decider against Bengaluru FC. Asked if the poor record in big matches will become a factor on Saturday, Lobera stated, "In the last final, we played good football. We were the better team. But this is football. This time, we are working really well to approach this final. What we have to do is to keep playing this kind of football. I’m sure we will do well in the final. We have to be able to handle the feelings and keep playing with the same idea that we have been doing in the last games."
From Chennaiyin’s end, head coach John Gregory was accompanied by midfielder Gregory Nelson at the briefing. Gregory wasted little time before bestowing the favourites tag on Goa and said, "We start as the underdogs in the final. I believe FC Goa are the favourites. We are pleased to be in the final. We have worked incredibly hard to reach here. We've beaten two teams that made the semi-finals of this season's Hero ISL but this will be a big test for us. Now that we're in the final, there is only one thought - to win it," he said.
The Englishman further piled up the praise for Saturday's opponents and stated, "FC Goa have come into the Hero Super Cup and taken it very seriously. We are well aware of Goa's qualities. Even without Edu Bedia, they outclassed Chennai City FC. It will be interesting for us to see who is left out for that line-up, with Bedia coming back. We know we are in for a really tough game. For me, they have been outstanding and great to watch this season. I have enjoyed watching them. Sergio Lobera has done a terrific job," he said.
Chennaiyin will be without Christopher Herd on Saturday, who is suspended for the final due to an accumulation of bookings. Sharing his opinion about how big of a miss the Australian will be, Gregory said, "Unfortunately we are without Chris Herd tomorrow, who misses out through suspension. But we do have a lot of quality in our side and I am sure we will cope and do well. Herd and Dhanpal Ganesh had a fantastic match against ATK in the semi-finals and we looked really strong down the middle. He will be a big miss."
Asked about the biggest threat from the Gaurs' roster, Gregory said, "Coro (Ferran Corominas), for them, is a very important player. He has continued his fine goal scoring form from last season and he will be a big threat. But, with our current momentum, we go into the game with excitement and confidence. And we know that we have the ability to win. Every team can be beaten and we are well-prepared. The games have come thick and fast, but the boys have rested well and there is a fantastic spirit in the camp."
Nelson echoed his gaffer's thoughts and stressed the importance of winning the title. "It is a hugely important game for all of us, after the season we have had. This will be the second final in as many years for us. It says a lot about our club. We are here but now, we have to go ahead and win it. It is an achievement, reaching the final, but an even bigger achievement will be to win the final. I think it will be an open game. Goa are a very good side, but we are a confident team as well. And I am sure we have what it takes to win the Hero Super Cup," he said.
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