FC Goa created history by becoming the first Indian team to qualify for the AFC Champions League group stages after topping the league table in the ongoing season of the Indian Super League (ISL).
Now, they are up against Chennaiyin FC in the play-offs as they look to land the elusive ISL trophy. Though Chennaiyin qualified as the fourth-placed team, FC Goa's interim boss Clifford Miranda feels that the Marina Machans are a team they would not have wanted to face in the play-offs, given their recent form.
"Chennaiyin is the most difficult side in the play-offs. It is one team we would have wanted to avoid. They are the most improved side in the league," he said.
"We, along with ATK and Bengaluru FC, were always there in the top four mix. But they were nowhere near. They have accumulated 24 games in the last 12 games. Possibly, they could have reached top three as well. They are a team that is unbeaten in the last 8 games with six wins and two draws. I think all teams would have wanted to avoid them.
"It is going to be difficult for us. But we will play our natural game. We will play a style that will help us go closer to our objective (of winning the title)," Miranda added.
Miranda, who took over after Sergio Lobera parted ways with the club three games before the league stages ended, feels that criticism of FC Goa's defensive issues are exaggerated. Though the Gaurs have conceded 23 goals in 18 games, Miranda points to their attacking output and feels it is a risk the team willingly takes.
"I think we are very solid defensively. We work very hard defensively. The entire team. If we have conceded 23 goals, we can say we have scored 46 goals. In our opinion, we have conceded because we play a very open game. When you play an open match and expressive kind of games, there are such moments. But it is a risk that we take," said Miranda.
Centre-back Carlos Pena also echoed his manager's thoughts. "I think we are doing very good defensive work. Everyone knows our style. We take a lot of risk playing our way. We enjoy scoring and playing attacking football. When you take risks, sometimes you concede. But the team is working well defensively," the Spaniard said.
Miranda also expressed confidence in his team to play their natural game and do what they have been doing best so far this season.
"This team has been together for the last three years. They already know how to play. They are dedicated players and good human beings. They know their roles and know what is expected of them," he said.
The former India midfielder also admitted that past results against Chennaiyin FC have no bearing on Saturday's contest.
"If we go about history, we have lost the final against Chennaiyin FC(in 2015). We lost to them in the semifinals in 2018. That is the past. I don’t believe past results will have any bearing on this match. We beat them twice this season. But I’m convinced what happened then will have no effect on tomorrow (Saturday). It’s a brand new game and it is about two legs."