Mumbai, October 28, 2022: Two back-to-back wins have handed FC Goa a solid start in their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 campaign. After taking home the three points in each of their away assignments against East Bengal FC and Chennaiyin FC, the Gaurs will now take on Hyderabad FC with confidence, says head coach Carlos Pena.
“The (previous) victories were important – especially for the players who were with the Club last season, because back then they didn’t win as many games as they’d have wanted. Now, they’ve come to realize that they’re surely good players, and the six points have improved their confidence,” he said at the pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“There have been positive changes in terms of our mentality as well. This adds to our strengths and hence, overall, we’re prepared for our next match against Hyderabad FC.”
Expecting a tough challenge from the Nizams
FC Goa are known for their distinct playing style that involves building up from the back and maintaining a high rate of ball possession. Under Pena, however, the Men in Orange occasionally chose alternative methods in favour of winning against both East Bengal and Chennaiyin FC.
When asked if this approach could pose a challenge to them against Hyderabad FC, the gaffer said, “The last two games were also tough due to various factors including playing away from home. We’ll be doing that once again on Saturday.
“Hyderabad FC are a strong team and have successfully managed to retain most of their core set of players and the head coach for over two seasons now. Hence, when I see the team, I see a solid, competitive outfit. That, however, doesn’t change things, as we’re going there to try and return with a win, by playing to our strengths.”
“It’s always difficult to get victories in the ISL due to the league being highly competitive. I’m hence personally quite happy with the six points that we got so far. At the same time, we acknowledge that we have some areas to improve upon. That said, we’ve just started the season – that too with a new coach in myself and many new players. We’re sincere in our efforts and therefore, we believe in ourselves,” the 38-year-old further explained.
Carlos Pena revealed that Dheeraj Singh, who put in a stellar shift between the sticks for the Gaurs against Chennaiyin FC, will undergo a medical test on Thursday that will shed light on the extent of his fitness following the injury he sustained later in the same match.
“He has another test today. We’ll examine the results and take the final call by tomorrow, on whether or not he can feature against Hyderabad FC,” he said.
Earlier, Alvaro Vazquez’ knock had resulted in Noah Sadaoui getting the nod for the starting XI against the Marina Machans – which turned out to be a successful decision from the Spanish tactician. The Moroccan international scored and assisted once each to play a crucial role in the win.
“We have six foreign players and all of them have helped the team quite a lot so far,” Pena said when asked if Sadaoui is now guaranteed a spot in the starting XI. “I have many options to select from, and my choices depend on many factors including their fitness, the team we’re playing against, the style of play we want to implement, and so on.
“As long as they continue to work hard, they are all in contention and we need each and every one of them in equal measure,” he added.
Noah Sadaoui relishes the opportunity
The 29-year-old, who accompanied his coach at the press conference, also gave his two cents on the challenges that lay ahead.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here so far. We’ve been winning as well, and that definitely makes the experience all the more wonderful. Both our matches so far were challenging, and I expect the same on Saturday. The tougher the challenge, the happier I am,” he began.
The forward also preferred to laud his teammates for their performances over taking credit for his match-winning contributions against Chennaiyin FC. “Nothing in the game was single-handed. While I scored, for instance, my friends ensured that I got good balls into spaces. I’m pleased with how I’m able to connect with them, and we’re now looking to build on both of our victories so far,” he concluded.