The Gaurs have had mixed results in their last five games.

FC Goa are on the cusp of a dip in form as their defeat to ATK Mohun Bagan raised questions over the squad’s tenacity. After managing 19 points from 12 games, Carlos Pena’s side are in a head-to-head tussle with Odisha for the final two playoff spots. Seventh-placed Chennaiyin have a game in hand and a win would see the competition become tougher for the Goan outfit.

Amidst this discord, FC Goa manager Carlos Pena vouched for his team to book a berth in the playoff spots despite their recent wavering form. The Spaniard clarified a number of issues as he attended the pre-match press conference ahead of his side’s game on Thursday.

On the recent results affecting their targets

The Gaurs’ tactician stressed that his team is improvising as per his instructions and they have a set plan in motion. According to him, in spite of the irregularities in results, their recent results won’t become a hurdle while achieving their goals. He stated:

“I think we are on the right track. We have improved minute by minute and the team has been working very well. Now, it’s time to keep our focus in the second half of the league. The only notable change is that we conceded some easy goals, but I still think the team was good in defence. At Jamshedpur as well as Kolkata, and before this too, the defence has been good on multiple occasions.”

On their playoffs qualification being potentially hampered

After consecutive losses to Bengaluru and Mumbai City, concerns were raised about FC Goa’s place in the top six. After a good showing against NorthEast United, the Gaurs have faced yet another slump in form. However, the Spanish head coach remained resolute about his team and stood by the belief that his squad will make it to the playoffs.

“Maybe after losing in Kolkata, the people think that FC Goa have problems for the top four or the top six. Okay, but imagine if we won in Kolkata. Surely, we would have been in the third position. Yes? So, it’s just one game that is actually changing the mentality of the people. And in turn it is affecting the approach of the players and of the team as a whole.”

On team building and FC Goa’s progress compared to last season

After a dismal 2021-22 campaign, FC Goa have significantly ramped up their efforts this season under Carlos Pena’s leadership. Talking about the same, the mentor highlighted that it’s a long process and will require significant time and dedication to bring back FC Goa’s winning mentality. He mentioned:

“I think it’s common in football – it happens when you are building a team, when you are building a project. I used to say that we need to think of where we came from, you know? Last season this team finished in the ninth position and it is difficult to build a winning mentality from scratch again.”

“We have improved a lot of things from the beginning of the season. I think the team shows a lot of competitiveness, and we are very recognisable in the team; everyone knows what FC Goa is capable of. But of course, at this moment, we are conceding goals, we are having mistakes that are costing us some important points.”

On the opponent and how they prepared for them

Hyderabad FC have had a strong start to their title defence season. Their previous fixture saw them hammer NorthEast United 6-1 and Pena’s men will have problems should they lack concentration. The Nizams sit comfortably in second place but the Gaurs head coach has the utmost respect and appreciation for the side. He mentioned:

“They are, for me, the most consistent team in the league. They have been playing almost together; most of the players for three years with the same coach. They are a team that, even without the ball, they look like a team, they know how they play, they know each other extremely well.”

“On Thursday, we must be ourselves. We must be FC Goa more than ever, playing with our identity, as we did in the game in Hyderabad. We were very close to getting at least one point. And on Thursday, we will be competitive again. It’s not going to be easy, of course. We’ll fight for the three points until the end,” the head coach added.

On any probable preferences for starting eleven

FC Goa have experimented with their line-up quite a few times this season. As to whether he will tweak his starting eleven according to the strengths of the opponent, Carlos Pena stuck to his verdict about his squad which harbours varying strengths. Talking about what goes on in his mind during the process of selection, he said:

“I don’t have a preferred starting eleven per se. I want to take advantage of every player in my squad. I also know that we have young players in the squad who need to be fielded and developed if you want to build your (the club’s) future. You need to use them in important moments. Not only five, seven, 10 minutes every day or whenever you need them. ”

“As a coach, my idea is not to think about an ideal starting eleven. I’m happy with my players and I think we have a very good starting squad. There are players that can be used, depending on the games, and this is the idea I prefer to work with,” he signed off.

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