FC Goa are arguably the unluckiest team in the brief history of the Indian Super League (ISL). They were one of the most free-scoring teams in the last edition, but despite their domination on the field, the Gaurs fell short of the title, losing 6-5 on aggregate to Chennaiyin FC in the semifinals. Before that they had lost twice in the final, to Bengaluru FC in the 2018-19 season and to Chennaiyin FC in the 2015-16 edition.
Last year, Goa finished the league stage on top with 39 points from 18 matches, winning 12 while losing and drawing three each. They scored an impressive 46 goals and conceded only 23 and became the first Indian club to seal a spot in the AFC Champions League.
Heading into the seventh edition of the league, which commences on Friday, FC Goa will be determined to go the extra mile and take home the elusive crown as the entire tournament will be played across three venues in their own backyard.
Goa's first match of the season is against Bengaluru FC on Sunday.
Core group departs
The franchise co-owned by Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli have lost some really big names this season that include coach Sergio Lobera who crossed over to Mumbai City. Ferran Corominas, top-scorer of the fourth and fifth seasons, and Hugo Boumous, last season's Hero of the League, have parted ways with them, so have Mourtada Fall, Ahmed Jahouh, Mandar Rao Desai, Amey Ranawade and Jackichand Singh.
Corominas left for Segunda Division B side Atletico Beleares while Jackichand will be seen in action for Jamshedpur FC. All the other players have joined Lobera at Mumbai City.
Their five new foreign signings for the 2020-21 season are defenders Ivan Gonzalez and James Donachie, midfielders Alberto Noguera and Jorge Ortiz Mendoza, and forward Igor Angulo.
One signing that is widely being talked about in footballing circles is that of young Ishan Pandita. In 2016, the 22-year-old became the first Indian to sign a professional contract with a club in Spanish first division when he joined the setup at CD Leganes. Returning to India after four years of mixed success in the Spanish youth system, the Delhi-born forward is eager to make an impact in the ISL.
He is expected to form a lethal strikeforce with Spaniard Igor Angulo. The 36-year-old Angulo is vastly experienced, having played for different sides in Spain, France, Cyprus, Greece and Poland.
The 20-year-old winger Makan Winkle Chote, who last played for Punjab FC in the I-League, former Salgaocar FC striker Devendra Murgaonkar, and 22-year-old Aaren D’Silva, who rose through FC Goa's youth system, complete the forward line-up.
Spanish trio to boss midfield
FC Goa, coached by Spaniard Juan Fernando, have strengthened their midfield by signing Alberto Noguera, who has played for Atletico Madrid's B team in Segunda Division B. The 31-year-old was also part of English club Blackpool and Spanish sides Rayo Vallecano B, Rayo Majadahonda, and SS Reyes.
His partner at the centre of the pitch will be fellow Spaniard Ortiz Mendoza. The 28-year-old, who spent most of his professional career in his country’s lower-tier leagues, will certainly bring a ton of experience to the outfit.
Goa have retained the experienced Spanish midfielder Edu Bedia. Into his fourth season with the Gaurs, the 31-year-old has been named their captain.
The midfield comprising Indian internationals Lenny Rodrigues, Brandon Fernandes, and Seiminlen Doungel also features young prospects Nestor Dias, Phrangki Buam, Princeton Rebello, Alexander Romario Jesuraj and Flan Gomes.
Former Shillong Lajong and NorthEast United FC player Redeem Tlang, who can be used as a winger or a midfielder, is another exciting talent to join Goa this season.
Defence lacks depth
The absence of Murtada Fall and Carlos Pena, two of their standout defenders in the last few seasons, will be a big blow for FC Goa. They will heavily rely on their two overseas recruits, the Spanish-Australian duo of Ivan Gonzalez and James Donachie, to solidify their backline.
The 30-year-old Gonzalez started his career at Real Madrid's youth academy and went on to play for different sides in the Spanish league. The 27-year-old Donachie joined FC Goa on-loan from A-League outfit Newcastle Jets.
The remaining defenders in their line-up are all Indians. They are, Seriton Fernandes, Aibanbha Dohling, Leander D'Cunha, Mohammed Ali, Sanson Pereira, Sarineo Fernandes, and Saviour Gama. The lack of bench strength in defence can seriously hurt their prospects.
The young Mohammad Nawaz is expected to retain his spot as Goa's first-choice between the sticks. Naveen Kumar, Dylan D'Silva, and Shubham Dhas are the reserve keepers.
Goalkeepers: Mohammad Nawaz, Naveen Kumar, Shubham Dhas, and Dylan D'Silva.
Defenders: Sanson Pereira, Seriton Fernandes, Leander D'Cunha, Ivan González, Mohamed Ali, James Donachie, Sarineo Fernandes, Aibanbha Dohling, and Saviour Gama.
Midfielders: Lenny Rodrigues, Nestor Dias, Edu Bedia, Princeton Rebello, Alberto Noguera, Brandon Fernandes, Phrangki Buam, Redeem Tlang, Alexander Romario Jesuraj, Jorge Ortiz, Flan Gomes, and Seiminlen Doungel.
Forwards: Igor Angulo, Aaren D'Silva, Devendra Murgaonkar, Ishan Pandita, and Makan Winkle Chothe.