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Goal.com spoke with the coach of the Federation Cup defending champions Karim Bencherifa who provided insight on how his team is gearing up...

MANAGER

Karim Bencherifa joined Salgaocar FC as a manager in the year 2010. However, he is not aloof to the system of football in India as he previously enjoyed stints with Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan. He is a popular figure in Salgaocar as he guided them to an I-League victory in his first full season incharge and followed it up with a Federation Cup triumph. He is known for bringing new talent to the fore. He has won the Best Coach of the year award as well in the past.


TRANSFER DEALINGS
Ángel Guirado is among the new faces in the squad

We asked Karim Bencherifa about his club's transfer policy and he opined that it had been a busy summer.

He said, "Since we lost many players from last season for various reasons we had to be quite active in the transfer window to find suitable replacements. This year we opted for young talented players who are hungry to make a name for themselves. We kept the the core of the team (almost half of the squad). The current squad is very young as around half of the players are below the age of 23. I am pleased with the quality of the squad and I am confident that we will do well this season."

To bolster its strike force, Salgaocar FC have added Sean Rooney and Ángel Guirado to their squad, while Quinton Jacobs adds a new dimension to their midfield. While the departure list include names of Ishfaq Ahmed, Chidi Edeh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo and playmaker Ryuji Sueoka. The club had also signed Abu Hamza from HAL for the 2012-13 season however, the striker failed to fit into the Moroccan coach's system in the pre-season and hence he was released after a couple of months.


PRE-SEASON

The pre-season for every team is very important as it sets the tone of the squad before the start of the season and Bencherifa went on to say, "The preparation for this season was well planned; as early as June 24th when the first batch of players started training, which included players who were injured or didn't play much last season."

"The whole squad started on July 16th. We scheduled trainings in the gym, beach and field. We also had a good close training camp in south Goa. We also played several friendly matches against strong opposition teams such as Churchill Brothers, Dempo, Sporting Clube de Goa and Pune FC. We are not yet at our peak but we are ready to give a good fight to any team in the upcoming Federation Cup."


TACTICS AND FORMATION

Bencherifa also spoke about his strategies for the forthcoming season as he said, "Last season we defended extremely well but we failed to score enough to challenge for the I-League. My challenge this year is to fix this problem; while maintaining a good defensive record we need to create the chances. We are preparing the team for several formations such as the conservative 4-4-1-1 or a common 4-4-2 to an all out attacking 4-3-3."

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We agree with Karim Bencherifa as the now departed forwards, Ishfaq Ahmed and Chidi Edeh, were very dismal with their performances infront of goal. Hopefully, the new recruits in Sean Rooney and Ángel Guirado would help the Goan side poach more finishes.

We will again not contradict the Salgaocar manager when he spoke about the defensive quality of his team though Khelemba Meetei has quit to join Mohun Bagan. However the presence of Luciano Sobrosa at the back is more than reassuring for Bencherifa.

We expect the team to go for a conservative 4-4-1-1 approach as they have full backs capable of making runs down the pitch. The right back, Nicolau Colaco who was also presented with the Most Improved Player award by the club, is very clever with his runs down the right flank and is equally good with tracking back in time. Gilbert Oliveira's pace down the wings combined with Rocus Lamare's intelligence in the middle of the park, Salgaocar's strength lies in the midfield.

 

KEY PLAYERS
Francis Fernandes can be among Salgaocar's chief difference makers

Having assessed his squad before the start of the tournament, Bencherifa expects the younger players in his squad to impress. "As I said this year the squad has plenty of talented young players, many of whom are unknown to the public but I am confident, as we do for years, many of them will become the talk of the town sooner rather than later."

Goal.com View

Salgaocar does have a couple of interesting prospects on their roster. Luciano Sobrosa continues to be a mainstay in their defence and brings in tons of experience. Francis Fernandes has made a name for himself as he featured in every game of the Nehru Cup for Team India. All eyes will be on Sean Rooney and Angel Guirado as the two strikers will want to justify the faith shown in them by Bencherifa.

FEDERATION CUP HOPES AND GROUP RIVALS
Salgaocar will definitely face good competition in their group

Bencherifa was livid of his side's chances in the tournament given that they have been placed in the toughest group where they are clubbed with Pune FC, Prayag United and United Sikkim.

"Right after the draw it was clear that Group D is the group of death. Prayag United is the hot team at the moment because of their high budget and the quality star players they have recruited. We did play Pune FC in a friendly match and we could see their strength. Plus United Sikkim is the dark horse of the group as they are very unknown to us and that is what will make them dangerous and unpredictable."

"There is a sense of unfairness in the fact that we have to travel to Jamshedpur taking different flights and then around 3 hours by road compared to the easier access to Siliguri. Also the finalist of Jamshedpur still have a hectic trip to Siliguri and play the final against a team that is accustomed to the place and don't have to endure the travelling fatigue. But I promise that Salgaocar FC will try to overcome all this and defend our title."

Goal.com View

The Federation Cup defending champions will be put to the season's early test in Group D as they are up against big-spenders Prayag United and Pune FC. United Sikkim will be the underdogs in the group but will not be underestimated as it still remains unclear what tricks they might have up their sleeve. Anything less than a berth in the semi-finals would be a disappointment for the defending champions.

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