Chennai City FC coach Akbar Nawas put himself in the shoes of FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera to declare that he would want to win the 2019 Super Cup after finishing as runners-up in the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL).
"FC Goa is no stranger to the football that they have been playing. It will be a tough game against them. One thing is for sure, if I was FC Goa, I would want to do something (win the Super Cup) because they have finished second in the league," said the coach of the I-League champions ahead of facing the Goans in the semi-finals of the ongoing Super Cup.
"Normally, when you finish second in the league, you have that desire to win a cup competition. You still have some unfinished business. That's what happened to Bengaluru last year," he pointed out. "They lost [the ISL final] to Chennaiyin and they won the Super Cup. So when you are facing these type of teams, you have to be careful."
Nawas, who is himself known to play an attacking brand of football, refrained from making any comments with regard to similarities in the two teams' style of play.
"It's difficult for me to actually answer you this because I do not wish to disrespect their coach, myself or the teams. This is something that I will keep to myself. There are similarities in certain things that both teams do and there are also differences. This is something I would only talk to my technical staff about," he maintained.
FC Goa, with their attacking flair, will be a test for the all-Indian Chennai City backline in the absense of their Spanish defender Roberto Eslava. However, Nawas expressed his confidence in his defenders.
"For sure, (Roberto) Eslava is a big loss, but that doesn't mean that (Gaurav) Bora and Tarif (Akhand) cannot build up from the back. They tried a lot in the last two games against Pune (FC Pune City) and Bengaluru. It's a learning process for them. Bora, Ajith (Ajithkumar Kamaraj) and Tarif are quite young and Edwin (Vanspaul) is 26 years old," he said.
"In tomorrow's game if they do something (mistakes) because of which we lose, we cannot be hitting at them and say that 'we lost the game because of you'. It's an experience they will take for their future and these kind of games will only help them grow in confidence. Bora made two mistakes against Pune but that doesn't mean that he doesn't play the next game.
"They did well against Bengaluru where they managed to prevent goalscoring chances and also managed to get away with it when they didn't do things too well."
Elaborating further on what would be the next challenge for the Indian players without the presence of foreigners, Nawas claimed that a national team opportunity is what may help bring about that comparison.
"To come to that stage where you can do it by yourself is only when you do not have foreigners in the team. For example, if Bora goes to the U-23 team or if Edwin (Vanspaul) goes to the national team, how will they perform. I think that is when we can compare how they fare without foreigners," he remarked.
In retrospect to facing the Gaurs, the 43-year-old said, "We have been following them since day one, but to judiciously follow them, only now we are analysing them. As we do with all our opponents, even if it a division two side we will be facing, we have to analyse.
"Almost every team have their strength and weaknesses which we need to exploit. Whether it is Bengaluru or FC Goa, there are weaknesses that we can exploit but how much can we exploit I cannot say based on their last five games," he continued.
"What if tomorrow they decide to tighten their backline or be compact in midfield. We have to be prepared for all scenarios and then let's see what happens. If you assume, that is the recipe for a screw up."
FC Goa will be missing Edu Bedia on account of a suspension, but Nawas still expects the ISL outfit to be the more dominant side.
"[It is a] big miss for them. Just like we are missing Eslava, it is for them. But if you're going to ask Sergio (Lobera) or myself if that is going to affect the team, we will obviously say no because we want someone to step up and do the job," he stated.
"I think FC Goa will very dominant tomorrow. We're talking about my 'kids' playing against them. You're talking about a different level of maturity. Against any ISL team, on paper we are hands down we are the least favourites but when we go on to the pitch, let's see what happens."
Asked if it is the 'underdog' tag that has helped them overcome FC Pune City and Bengaluru FC in the Super Cup, Nawas responded, "Yes, because we have nothing to lose. The 'underdog' tag always helps. The 'favourites' tag, as we learned in the I-League, sometimes is very pressurising."
Speaking of the next challenge for his Chennai City side after their I-League triumph, the Singaporean reminded his boys about their national team dream.
"It's a really exciting thing to happen for the players. After winning this season, next year try to stay there. And if they're not able to stay there, then are they good enough to go to the national team? This is their challenge," he signed out with a message to his players.