The Goan boss also refuted suggestions that the Gaurs have been bad defensively.

FC Goa created history by becoming the first Indian club to qualify for the AFC Champions League group stages after topping the league table at the ongoing season of the Indian Super League (ISL).

Now, they’re up against Chennaiyin FC from the play-offs as they seem to land the elusive ISL decoration. Though Chennaiyin qualified as the fourth-placed team, FC Goa’s interim boss Clifford Miranda believes that the Marina Machans is a group they wouldn’t have wanted to confront from the play-offs, given their current form.

“Chennaiyin is the toughest side from the play-offs. It is 1 team we’d have desired to avoid. They are definitely the most improved side in the league,” he said.

“We, together with ATK and Bengaluru FC, were there in the top four combinations. However, they were nowhere near. They’ve gathered 24 games in the past 12 games. Possibly, they might have attained top three as well. They’re a team that is unbeaten in the last 8 games with six wins and 2 draws. I believe all teams would have desired to avoid them.

“It will be difficult for all of us. But we’ll play our normal game. We’ll perform a style that will help us move nearer to our goal (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 somewhat exaggerated. Though the Gaurs have surrendered 23 goals in 18 games, Miranda points for their attacking output and believes it’s a risk the team voluntarily takes.

“I believe we are extremely solid defensively. We work really hard defensively. The whole team. If we’ve surrendered 23 goals, we could say we’ve scored 46 goals. In our opinion, we’ve conceded because we play with a very open game. When you play with an open match and expressive sort of matches, there are these moments. But it’s a threat we take,” said Miranda.

Centre-back Carlos Pena also echoed his manager’s thoughts. “I think we’re doing really good defensive work. Everybody knows our style. We have a good deal of danger playing our way. We enjoy playing and scoring attacking football. When you take risks, sometimes you concede. However, the team is functioning well defensively,” the Spaniard said.

Miranda also expressed confidence in his group to play their normal game and do what they were doing the best thus far this season.

“This group has been together for the past 3 decades. They already know how to play. They’re dedicated players and great human beings. They understand their roles and understand what’s expected of them,” he said.

The prior India midfielder also confessed that previous results against Chennaiyin FC have no bearing on Saturday’s competition.

“If we go about history, we’ve lost the final against Chennaiyin FC(in 2015). We lost to them in the semifinals in 2018. That’s the past. I don’t think past results are going to have any bearing on this game. We beat them twice this year. But I am convinced what happened then will have no impact on tomorrow (Saturday). It is a completely new game and it’s about two legs.”