Super Cup 2019 Final: John Gregory - Sergio Lobera has done a terrific job at FC Goa

The Chennaiyin boss praised his counterpart while branding his own side as the underdogs in the final....

Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory leads his troops against FC Goa in the final of the 2019 Super Cup to be played at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, on Saturday.

With the dismal run they have endured in the Indian Super League (ISL) after entering the season as defending champions, the 64-year-old has pegged his side as the underdogs despite convingly getting the better of Mumbai City FC (2-0), NorthEast United (2-1) and ATK (2-0).

"We obviously start as the underdogs. Goa are the clear favourites in this particular game. We have worked hard to get to the final. The three matches that we have played have been against very strong sides but this becomes a big test for us. We are very pleased by the way we got here, but when you get to the final, there is only one thing on your mind and that is to win it," he said.

Looking back on when they last clinched a title in the 2017-18 ISL final against Bengaluru FC, he added, "We were also the underdogs 12 months ago when we had to go Bengaluru. So we quite enjoy that. We are waiting for our second final in 12 months and quite frankly, we can't wait."

A big drawback for the Marina Machans will be the absense of Chris Herd who alongside Dhanpal Ganesh had given Chennaiyin the perfect balance Gregory would have wanted during the course of the season.

ATK vs Chennaiyin Super Cup 2019

"We have been without Ganesh all season. He was a big part in the [2017-18] ISL season we won. The system we were playing complimented him and the rest of the players. We have been able to play Ganesh in the Super Cup and playing him alongside Chris, we had a very good balance there. We tried many permutations during the ISL season but we were never able to recapture the shape that we had last year," he explained.

"We didn't have the right personnel at certain times and playing Chris the other night was a big plus for us. We looked exceptionally strong across the pitch. Without Chris tomorrow (Saturday), it gives the opportunity for someone else to come into the side. I have one or two experienced players that can come in the side and hopefully we won't miss Chris too much."

John Gregory had showered all the praises he could bestow on FC Goa manager Sergio Lobera after his side blanked Chennai City FC 3-0 to make it into the final.

"We know of their qualities. Even without (Edu) Bedia, they outclassed Chennai City. They could have won by more than the three goals that they scored. I have enjoyed watching them this season. Sergio has done a terrific job at the club. He made one or two changes at the start of this season and the changes he made improved his team and they have come into this competition and taken it very seriously," said Gregory.

"We know that we are in for a very tough game. If they can get opportunities, they can punish you. Coro (Ferran Corominas) has continued what he did last year, he's done it again this season and he's doing it in the Super Cup as well. So we got a tough game on our hands."

Bengaluru FC vs FC Goa

The former Queens Park Rangers player picked out a certain Mourtada Fall as the reason for FC Goa's improvements at the back but also pointed out that the Goans have their weaknesses that Chennaiyin have exploited in the past.

"They (FC Goa) have improved their defense. With the addition of Fall at the back, he has given them a lot more aerial power and he is very composed in possession. Defensively, they look very strong, but they conceded three goals (against Jamshedpur FC) the other night. So there are certain weaknesses in their side," Gregory observed.

"Generally, they are very strong side. They pass the ball well, which is always a tough act to play against. As you know, we played them in the two [ISL] semi-final play-offs last year where they kept a lot of possession but we managed to break them. We are hoping that, with our current momentum, we go into the game excited, hoping to win and knowing that we have the ability to win."

Lauding his own side's resolute defense, he added, "We ourselves have been strong defensively. We conceded one goal in six games (excluding the walkover against Aizawl FC). So our defense has improved enormously in the last part of the season. So if we can keep a clean sheet, which we know is tough against Goa, we feel that we have a chance."

"After the season that we had, it might have been a little bit more tough for us than it may has been for Goa. They came into the Super Cup on the back of amazing season. Obviously, losing in the ISL final would have hurt them badly. They know what that feeling is like and I'm sure that they won't want to get that same feeling again."