The Gaurs are gearing up for the final phase of their knockout qualification journey.

FC Goa embark on their last shift before the playoffs begin as they face host East Bengal at home on Thursday. With Carlos Pena’s side aiming to reach their first knockouts since 2021, the stakes are pretty high. The Goan outfit sit fifth in the ISL 2022-23 table and will look to consolidate a playoff berth.

Forward Noah Sadaoui and the manager answered the media’s questions regarding the same in the pre-match press conference. 

On how much the last game’s win eased the pressure

After a helter-skelter few games where Goa dropped a flurry of points, questions were raised about their playoff chances. The win against Kerala relieved that but their mentor stressed that it will remain till they can achieve something fruitful. He explained:

“No, the pressure has not decreased. We have the same kind of pressure as we had four days ago. Of course, it was an extremely necessary victory because the team was performing well but still wasn’t getting the results. In the last game against Kerala, we played a complete game and successfully got the results. That was the difference. But now we are absolutely focused on the game tomorrow. We know that it has the same importance as the last one and we want to get all three points tomorrow.”

On the importance of the last five games

Speaking about the remainder of the league stage games, Carlos Pena talked about reaching a crucial stage (the present situation) in good form and utilising the same. Speaking about upcoming games, the tactician stated:

“It’s a crucial time because now is when you truly complete or miss your objective, no? I feel the team has reached these last five games in a good condition with good momentum in their stride. We are growing, improving, and getting better game by game. So yes, we are absolutely ready to face, first off, tomorrow’s opponents and then think about the following games.”

On Saviour Gama’s injury

Saviour Gama went off with a minor head injury in the home victory over Kerala Blasters. But as the tactician mentioned, he is all set to feature tomorrow given no other setbacks occur. He said:

“Well, Saviour (Gama) was rested the day of the game and after that. He suffered a knock to the head but he is absolutely ready. He didn’t face any problems as he trained with the team yesterday. So if nothing happens this evening, he will be ready to play tomorrow.”

On Lenny Rodrigues and Glan Martins’ swap 

Lenny Rodrigues and Glan Martins had previously swapped jerseys between the Mariners and the Gaurs in 2021. While the former moved to Kolkata, the latter swapped the Green & Maroon for Goa’s orange. Now, Glan has re-joined ATK Mohun Bagan and Lenny will return to his hometown once again. Carlos Pena wished his players, both current and former, all the best as he concluded:

“Well, the players must be where they want to stay. Glan (Martins) had an offer from ATK (Mohun Bagan) in the summer also and he thought about it for some time. Now that this transfer is finally completed I only have to thank Glan for his commitment during his time. He tried to help the team, and now that Lenny (Rodrigues) has arrived, we are happy for him too! I know Lenny both as a player and a person and I wish both of them all the very best.”

Noah Sadaoui on the chemistry up front

Carlos Pena’s side have already managed to score 26 goals compared to last season’s final output of 29. Along with the team’s overall work rate, their attacking game plan has also undergone an about-turn for the better. Noah agreed that it was all down to team chemistry but he also mentioned:

“Yeah some of us are new and some of us were already here. I feel like in every game we are learning about each other; how everyone likes to play and attack in a different way. That’s important for us – to have diversity while attacking. Obviously, it’s working out as we’ve a better ratio of goals than last season. We just have to keep working hard as a team and improve ourselves.” 

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