BY ANSELM NORONHA Follow @apnoronha on twitter
Salgaocar Football Club
Last season's performance: (Finished seventh) - Salgaocar FC didn't enjoy the best start to their league campaign as they went down to United Sikkim on the opening day. Karim Bencherifa switched to join the Mohun Bagan after having received a top offer from the Kolkata outfit. The Goan club was temporarily managed by Peter Valles, their technical director, before David Booth came in to rescue their season.
Booth, who rued a lack of I-League material players at the club, made a couple of key signings in the January transfer window and gradually but surely led Salgaocar out from the relegation zone and helped them to a commendable top half finish.
Current coach Derrick Pereira commented, "I felt that initially they (Salgaocar) struggled. After the Federation Cup they were struggling, whatever the reason was. They had to change the players. With the new players, they settled down well."
| THE COACH
The Football Players' Association of India (FPAI) 'Coach of the Year', Derrick Pereira, was also adjudged as 'Best Coach' by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for the 2012-13 season.
The 51-year-old AFC Professional coaching license holder led Pune FC to a nailbiting second place last season, with a 16-4-6 (W-D-L) record, just three points behind eventual champions Churchill Brothers SC.
He announced his decision to join Salgaocar FC at the end of last season after the Goan side chose not to renew David Booth's contract.
Pereira had always wanted to return to the club where he began his professional playing career. His most successful stint as a coach was with Mahindra United where he famously won the National Football League (NFL) in 2006.
| TRANSFER DEALINGS
TRANSFERS OUT: Salgaocar lost a couple of stellar performers in the summer as striker Josimar da Silva Martins and defenders Luciano Sobrosa and Collin Abranches moved to Mohammedan Sporting. Beevan D'Mello and Cajetan Fernandes were roped in by Sporting Clube de Goa, while Churchill Brothers signed Balwant Singh and Presley Mascarenhas. Pune FC captured the signature of promising left winger Anthony D'Souza, while Keegan Pereira, Vinay Singh and Royston D'Souza joined Bengaluru FC, Shillong Lajong and Mumbai Tigers respectively.
|Karma Tsewang and Chika Wali followed Derrick Pereira|
TRANSFERS IN: Midfielder Karma Tsewang and Nigerian defender Chika Wali followed their mentor from Pune. Among the foreigners, Salgaocar signed Japanese midfielder Seiji Saito, who was later joined by Scottish striker Darryl Alexander Duffy and French-born Ivorian attacker Claude Gnakpa. Among the Indian names added to the roster, midfielder Rakesh Masih and goalkeeper Felix D'Souza made their way in from Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers respectively.
"This season, as far as I'm concerned, we've got a youthful side except for the foreigners who came in late. We are waiting for them to become 100 percent fit, which gradually they will," Pereira pointed out.
"Otherwise, we started well in the Goa League matches, but due to less time in between the matches we couldn't try out many players," he added.
| FORMATION AND TACTICS
Although new to the club, the advantage that Derrick Pereira has at Salgaocar FC is that he enjoyed an entire six-week long pre-season to gauge his side's strengths and weaknesses.
Salgaocar played a practice match against Vasco SC earlier this week in which they drew 1-1, although the starting line-up did not include the likes of Gnakpa and Wali.
"Gnakpa has a slight calf strain and Wali has got a knee strain," Pereira informed Goal, also adding that the injured members are gearing towards full fitness ahead of their season opener against Churchill Brothers on Saturday.
An area of concern appears to be the left back position, as the coach explained, "I have tried a lot of players in that position. I tried Milagres [Gonsalves], I tried Nicolau [Colaco]. Going forward, Fulganco [Cardozo] is very good, but defensively he has to improve. We are looking at accomplished players.
"We have got good wingers. Francis [Fernandes], Karma and Brian [Mascarenhas] also is shaping up well. We feel that Rocus [Lamare[ and Clifton [Dias] are doing well. Randeep [Singh] is carrying an injury and we hope he will be back in a couple of days."
Asked what his preferred formation would be, Pereira said, "It is flexible. We can go in with a 4-2-3-1. It can be changed to a 4-4-2 and even a 4-3-3. So we are working on different formations, but the base will be 4-2-3-1."
Man to Watch - Francis Fernandes
"We are at a stage where we are building up the team, so I don't want to put too much significance on one player. But yes, Francis will be one player who will be key this season," the Salgaocar tactician admitted.
Francis Fernandes adds a lot of energy in Salgaocar's attacks, especially on the right flank, and is able to operate as a second striker as well. His pace is an asset though he does tend to go missing late in the game.
| SEASON'S TARGET
"Season's target is to perform well because we have got to finish on top," according to Pereira. "We will take it match-by-match as the first three matches will be very crucial for us and those three results will push us forward. From there on we have to see how we go about."
Following a poor campaign last term, they will hope to do better than that for sure. A lot would depend on the foreign players and as to how they gel with the rest of the squad. A top three finish looks unlikely, though they will be around the mid-table come the end of the end of the season.
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