The Indian Super League (ISL) has Irresistible Force Paradox in front of it. Yes, the same one where an unstoppable force collides with an immovable object. The one which the character of Joker popularised as a cultural reference with his dialogue in the the movie The Dark Knight. In ISL, those two forces are being represented by Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa.
The two clubs collide not once but twice in the semi-finals this season – on 29 February and 7 March with the first match of the two-leg series taking place in Chennai. It's the battle of the first placed Goa with the fourth placed Chennai in league table. So how's it the Irresistible Force Paradox? Because of the respective manner in which both sides have sealed the semis spot
Goa finished on the top of the league and made history by becoming the first Indian club to qualify for AFC Champions League group stage. They have been the team of the season but Chennaiyin have their own fairytale ongoing. After a horrific start to the season under John Gregory, Chennaiyin looked like the side destined to fight for the scrap, but all that changed with a managerial change. Former Bolton Wanderers and Burnley FC manager Owen Coyle was made the captain of the ship and not only did he steady the ship amidst choppy seas but also taught his boys to ride the waves with style.
The miraculous turnaround under Coyle had been built on high tempo football. The journey since Coyle's intervention had been a goal fest along with serious points accumulation.
The club from South India are unbeaten in last eight games, including six wins. They have scored 21 goals in those games and that has led to the playoffs qualification despite them being at five points from six games at one stage.
"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," FC Goa interim coach Clifford Miranda said ahead of the match.
Nerijus Valskis, Rafael Crivellaro, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Andre Schembri have been at the forefront of that all-out attack ably assisted by midfielders Anirudh Thapa and Edwin Vanspaul.
Schembri picked up an injury before Mumbai City FC game and if he misses out, Dragos Firteluscu will likely to take his place. Apart from this one concern, the whole team is available for selection and considering the team's form, they are gonna be a tough nut to crack for any opposition.
But Goa won't fret much. They don't need to. The club has been in top gear for long. They also didn't have the greatest start but they been in great form throughout the season. More importantly, they are consistent.
They come into the match on a five-match winning streak. They scored an impressive 46 goals in the league stage, 13 more than second-highest scoring ATK. Goa have not been the best at the back but they are still better than Chennaiyin in that department.
"Having got here (play-offs), we want to see it through. But we are playing against a quality side with good coaches. But we have shown that we can go toe-to-toe with any team," Coyle said ahead of the big clash.
What stands out for the club is their philosophy and the execution of it. It is due to the hardwork of former coach Sergio Lobera that forged Goa into this tiki-taka team which continues to mesmerise fans with their passing and beautiful goals. Lobera had an infamous break-up with the club just before they booked the AFC Champions League spot but that has done little to stop the Goa juggernaut.
Clifford Miranda as interim coach and Derrick Pereira as technical director, in tandem, have kept the winning spirit alive. They have continued to win games with the same swagger.
And a clash between these two sides is not going to be anything less than a collision between unstoppable force and immovable object. But we also know that Irresistible Force Paradox for all its merits is flawed. It's impossible for an unstoppable force to come against irresistible force or vice versa and in this semi-final, there has to be a loser.
The semi-finals are two-leg affairs with the away goals rule, so swagger is not the only thing that will help a team cross the line. Chennaiyin, against Mumbai, showed their ugly side to clinch a vital win to qualify for last four. They seem like a team which can fight their way, but on balance of things Goa hold the edge and it's down to their consistency. Good teams always find a way. The semi-final is an opportunity for both teams, who share some bitter history, to prove which one is better.
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Updated Date: Feb 29, 2020 11:19:00 IST