The manager has called for perseverance from his side as he wants them to qualify for the knockouts.

FC Goa will be on the lookout for all three points against an indomitable Mumbai City FC on Saturday at the Fatorda Stadium in the ISL 2022/23. Des Buckingham’s men are on a roll and Carlos Pena will want to improvise his tactics to get even a point. Anything less than a win will be a setback for the Goan side while only helping Mumbai strengthen their grip on the league winners’ shield.

Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh attended the press conference ahead of the match alongside head coach Carlos Pena and answered the media. Edited excerpts from the conversation are as follows.

On dropping points against NorthEast United and Odisha FC and motivation to get better

FC Goa dropped points against NorthEast United and Odisha FC in their last four unbeaten games. On being asked about the atmosphere in the team and the willingness to get better, the Goan custodian replied:

“I strongly feel we are in the process of building a really good team. The team we are playing (with) this season is completely different with a new coach. So we can’t expect to win every game and its part of this sport. But the most positive thing is that we’ve been fighting for points in every game irrespective of the result.

“We already left what happened (last season) behind. So we have three games ahead of us, for which we need to prepare in order to qualify well for the playoffs. Our next focus is (on) Mumbai (City FC) and if we do everything then we definitely have a chance to qualify for the playoffs.”

On whether he’s looking to break into the national team 

Dheeraj was one of the breakout stars of the Indian squad for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in which teammates like Anwar Ali also featured. After that, it’s been a while since he donned the Indian colours as he made six appearances for the U23 side. He mentioned that it’s a dream to get his first senior team call-up and he will work for the same as he said: 

“Actually as a player everyone wants to represent the Indian national team; to represent our own country. But it is not up to me and it’s the decision of the coach. What I can do is perform very well in the upcoming matches. So the rest, the coach will decide whether I deserve a national team call-up. I’m not too worried about that for now but I’m just focused on the three matches left. Definitely, if I manage to do well, I would deserve something.”

On their approach towards the unbeaten league leaders tomorrow

Mumbai City have broken their own record as they have gone unbeaten in a whopping 17 games. Additionally, they steamrolled the Gaurs in the reverse fixture and are a tough opponent for any side at the moment. The head coach, however, has full belief in his side’s capability as he was reported saying: 

“Yeah we know the opponent we will be facing tomorrow but it is an important game for us. We are in a tight battle to reach our first objective of the season. And as I always say we don’t think about the opponent too much.

“We know each other, and our strengths and weaknesses but we’ll approach the game with confidence. It is going to be a tough game for us but also for them. So 100% confidence and trying to get three points.”

On whether the four dropped points against Odisha and NorthEast could come back to haunt FC Goa

Carlos Pena’s side has been trying their best to win every game, as evident from their work ethic and approach. The Goan outfit has maintained an upward curve since their defeat to Hyderabad at home. However, the mentor is wary of the four points lost yet hopeful of the future as he noted: 

“We know that always winning is very very difficult. Yesterday, you all saw ATK (Mohun Bagan) drop points against Jamshedpur (FC) and NorthEast (United FC) drew with East Bengal. So now we don’t have time to think about the past too much. Of course, we could have won against Odisha. I think the team competed very well against them.

Against NorthEast also, we had our chances to win. But we can’t waste time thinking about what we lost. It’s time to re-focus on tomorrow and reach our next and main objective of the season. We only have three games remaining to achieve that and try to improve and learn from our mistakes in the past. So we have to stay focused 100% tomorrow.”

On FC Goa’s formula in attack and defence 

The Gaurs have scored 10 goals in their last four outings while conceding six. Although they have been unbeaten, they have lost four valuable points. Talking about their ideology with regard to offence and defence, FC Goa’s tactician explained:

“We always try to be balanced. Both in attack and in defence. We try to be a strong team in defence and a fun team in attack. I think we’ve had enough chances in all the games we’ve played so far so we are a strong attacking team. We also defend really really well. But like every other team we concede goals and we can’t manage or control every situation. However, I feel the team is very balanced and we’ll work with this idea tomorrow.”

On Hernan Santana’s contributions so far

Hernan Santana penned a lightning-fast deal with FC Goa after a lacklustre stint with Sergio Lobera’s Sichuan Jiuniu in China. The defender/midfielder marked his return to the ISL, debuting Goa’s orange against Odisha FC. Carlos Pena was extremely pleased with his fellow Spaniard as he reported how well he has stepped up when he concluded:

“Yes yes, I am really happy because he played (in the game) after only four training sessions with us. I think he helped us a lot in the game against Odisha FC. He gave us a strong personality and balance on the pitch. So yes, he’s ready for tomorrow. I’m really happy because I feel he has improved the squad and that is the most important thing.”

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