NorthEast United FC and FC Goa are all set to battle it out in what is a crucial Durand Cup clash for both sides. The two Hero Indian Super League teams are vying to finish on top of Group D. A win for either side will take them one step closer to qualifying for the knockout stages.
The Highlanders were the first team from the group to be in action, beating Shillong Lajong 4-0 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on August 4. Parthib Gogoi was the star on that day, netting his first senior hat-trick, that too on his tournament debut. Romain Philippoteaux too got his name on the scoresheet that evening after earning and converting a penalty.
That result saw Juan Pedro Benali’s side lead the table until FC Goa sprung into action. Manolo Marquez’s side too registered a comprehensive victory over Shillong Lajong, usurping NEUFC’s scoreline by two more goals. Noah Sadaoui netted a hat-trick, while summer arrivals Rowllin Borges, Victor Rodriguez and Carlos Martinez also scored their first goals for the Gaurs.
Speaking about the challenge that awaits his side, head coach Juan Pedro Benali said, "FC Goa is a strong opponent and we’re fully aware of the challenges they present. They’ve got a good set of players and coaching staff. I believe it’ll be a very competitive and entertaining contest. We’ll need to be at our best."
The format of the Durand Cup 2023 allows two teams that finish second in each of the six groups to join the six teams that have qualified for the quarter-finals by finishing on top of their respective groups.
The last six meetings between the two sides have been finely balanced. Both NorthEast United FC and FC Goa have won just once each while four clashes have ended in hard-fought draws. This is the first time that the two teams will be facing each other in the Durand Cup.