FC Goa will kick start its set of pre-season friendlies with an opening encounter against Bangu Atletico Clube in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Head coach Zico is optimistic about his team’s chances in the Hero Indian Super League this season and in a bid to get his squad ready for the rigours of the ISL, has opted for his home country as the training venue for the pre-season.
The match will take place at Zico’s academy in Rio de Janeiro at 15.30 hrs, local time (12 am IST). The squad has been making extensive use of the training facilities available at the academy over the past week and has been put through an intense training regime in preparation for the season.
Goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani has picked up where he left off last season and is likely to retain his position between the sticks for the friendly. World Cup and UEFA Champions League winning defender, Lucio has re-signed for the franchise for the third season and will take the captain’s armband once more. Along with Gregory Arnolin, he formed a solid partnership at the heart of the defence last year which is expected to prompt Zico to continue with the same pairing.
Wingers Romeo Fernandes and Mandar Rao Dessai are likely to feature as well down the right and left wings respectively. Two season veteran, Jofre Mateu Gonzales has looked particularly sharp in training and is likely to slot into the midfield. The former Barcelona youth product was one of the major reasons for the success of the club in making it to the final of the second edition of the ISL and will be expected to shoulder much of the creative responsibility in midfield this year. Youngster Sahil Tavora, playing his first season of the tournament has had a promising start to the pre-season and could find himself in the thick of action as well.
Rafael Coelho, who came in as a replacement signing midway through the last season has risen to become a real fan favourite and is expected to feature in the friendly too. Coelho will be keen to work on his blossoming partnership with Indian target man, Robin Singh and indications are that Zico is likely to start the two up top.
The friendly should also allow Zico to give a run-out to his trio of new signings, Rafael Dumas, Richarlyson and Trindade Goncalves before they face a sterner test in the second pre-season game against his alma matter, CR Flamengo on the 14th September. The club will then take on Boa Vista FC the following day in a match where Zico is likely to rotate his squad in an effort to get all his players match sharp.
The Gaurs are slated to play a total of six friendly matches before flying back to Goa on 25th September ahead of their first game of the season against North East United on the 4th of October in Guwahati.