Juan Ferrando has reacted to FC Goa’s ACL draw that took place on Wednesday…
FC Goa boss Juan Ferrando believes the group stage of the AFC Champions League will be a great challenge for his team and is pleased to coach in Asia’s continental competition for the first time in his career.
The Gaurs will be the first club from India to play in the group stage of the ACL, draw for which took place on Wednesday. Goa have been clubbed with Iran’s Persepolis, Qatar’s Al-Rayyan and the winner of the play-off West 4 in the Group E (West Zone) of the AFC Champions League (ACL) 2021.
UAE’s Al-Wahda FC and Iraq’s Al-Zawraa SC will lock horns in the play-off West 4 qualifying match and the winner of the tie will be the fourth team in Group ‘E’.
Reacting to the draw, Ferrando said, “All the matches in the group stage are difficult. But in our case, it is a great opportunity for us to improve. It is a great opportunity for this club. There is a lot of responsibilities on us because this is the first an Indian team is participating in the ACL.”
ACL allows only four foreign players in the lineup whereas FC Goa are used to fielding five at a time in ISL games. Ferrando is prepared for the challenge which is completely new for him.
“It is necessary to be ready. We have a great challenge in front of us. This is the first time I am experiencing this competition. But I am just happy to get this opportunity. We have to focus on our tactical part and improve our mentality,” he said.
“Our mentality is always to get three points. The games will be very difficult. It is necessary to prepare a plan because we play against very good teams in this competition. It is necessary to explain to the players about the mentality.
“It is a lot of responsibility as it is the first time in the history an Indian team is playing. We have to enjoy this challenge. We have prepared a very good team and we have to enjoy game-by-game.”
The Gaurs will have to move from one bio-bubble to another to take part in the competition Ferrando has admitted that such a change is going to be difficult for the team.
“It is very difficult but there is no other way. It is necessary to protect the players. I am not so upset because ultimately we are playing in the group stage of the Champions League. Of course, we are away in our rooms, away from family but in the end, we are here to prepare a history for FC Goa.”
Goa’s director of football Ravi Puskur expects a tough challenge at the continental level but is excited about the opportunity that the team is set to enjoy.
“We are excited to play in the Champions League. It has been a year-long wait to play in this tournament. The draw has come out today and there is a certain excitement within the club.
“Persepolis are champions of West Asia and then they were the losing finalist in last year’s competition which got over just a month ago. The other teams are also extremely strong so it is a tough challenge and we are excited. It is a great opportunity for our players, both Indians and foreigners. It will be a different level of football at the Asian stage,” he said.
The Gaurs are also open to strengthening their Indian player department ahead of the group stage games of the ACL.
“We will look to do what we can. Ultimately in the Champions League, the focus shifts to the local players rather than the foreigners you can bring in. Even in the ISL, we are playing with more foreigners than that would be permitted in the AFC. So if anything we look to bolster will be our domestic strength instead of our foreign contingent because there it will only get reduced. For domestic contingent, we are checking the market. You never know what pops up in football.”