Ekendra Singh was handed the chief coach's responsibilities with the Goan outfit in 2011-12 season in which Sporting Clube de Goa finished eighth in the I-League.
The Manipuri has had a long association with the Flaming Oranje, firstly as a assistant coach, and took over the team since the present technical director of the side, Alex Alvares, who had guided them back into the top division, did not have the AFC "A" License.
|A lot of familiar faces along the way
The team management has been able to retain most of its first team while getting rid of players surplus to their requirements and promoting a couple of players from their junior side as well.
The biggest loss for the 'Flaming Oranje' will however come with last season's top scorer for the club James Moga making a move to fellow I-League unit Pune FC. The gap has been filled by Cameroonian striker Bertrand Benik Tequwa Bong.
Sporting's defensive citadel has more or less remained the same with few additions made. The midfield did get a boost of sorts after the signings of local talent Pratesh Shirodkar from Sesa Football Academy and Amandeep Singh from JCT Football Academy.
Sporting Clube de Goa recently took part in the Durand Cup competition in which they weren't able to get past the group stage, but Singh highlighted the fact that the team improved as the tournament progressed.
In the Durand Cup, the Goan side suffered a loss against Assam Rifles, before beating ONGC, but to no avail, as the North-Eastern side made it into the semi-finals.
Echoing the chief coach, the club's technical director Alex Alvares remarked, "Although we have left the tournament prematurely, our young squad has grown in confidence as a unit and we have also improved tactically."
TACTICS AND FORMATION
As far as Sporting Goa's style of play goes, Singh claims that the team is ready to experiment more than they did last season, wherein they mostly played in the 4-4-2 formation.
"We'll be trying to play a new system this season, either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1. Last year we employed mostly the 4-4-2. So this year we'll try these new formations," he said.
Goal.com View –Sporting Clube de Goa are well known for their attacking brand of football. Gerard D'Mello is likely to reclaim his place under the bar.
Taking into consideration a 4-3-2-1 formation, Samananda Singh and Keita Boubacar could be the two centre-backs with Adil Khan and Rovan Pereira likely to be the two wing-backs.
Freiman Peixoto, Ogba Kalu Nnanna and Jovel Martins would line-up in central midfield positions.
The lone striker in most probabilities would be the Cameroonian Bong. Pratesh Shirodkar and Joseph Pereira will look to play off him as well as providing the ammunition to the striker infront of goal.
Others who could be involved in the starting 11 are players like Boboi Singh, Mackroy Peixoto, Rowllin Borges and Dawson Fernandes.
|Expectations will always remain high
Ekendra Singh believes that Keita Boubacar will play a key part at the back, to ensure that the team does not concede as many goals as they have done in the past.
As per Ekendra Singh, "Keita and Samananda are the key players. Valzinho [Fernandes] is one of the highly rated upcoming Indian player along with Adil Khan, and I expect the whole team to do well."
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Except on a few occasions when Sporting's defence seemed to lapse, Keita Boubacar has always been a consistent performer for his side. Samananda Singh's experience will also play an important role in the back-line.
Adil Khan, who has previously been given play-maker's role at the center of the park alongside Ogba Kalu Nnanna, might feel more comfortable in the defense which is his natural postion. To help the flow of play through the flanks, Freiman Peixoto is capable of delivering from the right while Shirodkar could play in an advanced position. However the player one expects to come back to his best this season is Kalu Ogba Nnanna. The former Churchill Brothers midfielder has an eye for goal and his physical presence in the middle of the park makes it difficult for the opponents to go past him with ease.
FEDERATION CUP HOPES AND GROUP RIVALS
|Can Sporting flame into the final?
The coaching staff's expectations from the Goan side doesn't end with making it through the group phase, as Singh revealed, "Our main aim is to reach the final."
Sporting face East Bengal in their opener on September 21, but that is not the only worry for the Manipuri as he feels that other teams in the group should not be taken for granted as well.
"East Bengal aren't the only tough team we face, but so are the other teams in the group," he said.
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Sporting Clube de Goa have to get past the challenge offered by East Bengal, ONGC and one of the qualifiers for the main draw, who make up Group D, before they can start dreaming about a place in the tournament final.
The Goans have done well to surprise the bigger oppositions on many occasions in the past and so East Bengal will have to be cautious. But Sporting have often faltered against lesser fancied rivals, which might be a concern for Ekendra Singh.
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