The manager is critical of the way his side will approach the game but is wary of the opponents as well.

FC Goa will take on Chennaiyin FC in their last home and penultimate game of the ISL 2022/23 season. The Gaurs will do so in a bid to remain in the fight for and hopefully reach the knockout stages. While Chennaiyin FC’s qualification is all down to luck, the Goan side can still better the odds mathematically. Head coach Carlos Pena and midfielder Edu Bedia sat down with the media to answer them in the pre-match press conference ahead of the game.

On players treating the remaining games as finals 

FC Goa’s squad members have been taking to social media to voice their treatment of the remainder of the games as finals. The Spanish register himself posted something similar on his social handles. Upon being asked to explain how he alongside his teammates are approaching the matches, Carlos Penaelaborated:

“Okay, now we will be starting the knockout tournaments since we are almost done with the regular season. Tomorrow is a final and then again after that (the match against) Bengaluru (FC). But for now, we’re only focused on tomorrow’s game. I think all of us know that and will approach the match accordingly.”

On difference and a notable increase in the difficulty of each fixture in the ISL now

The Gaurs reached the knockouts three times in the last four seasons. While they had a dismal finish in their previous campaign, they competed in the semi-finals of the ISL thrice (2020, 2021). Additionally, they also reached the finals in 2019 and lost in a slender 0-1 loss to Bengaluru FC. Edu Bedia noted that it was initially easier to break into the top four compared to the tough battle for every game for the top six. Carlos Pena further mentioned:

“See every season is different. I think that maybe this season is more competitive than last season. There are many teams fighting for six positions in the table. Obviously, I remember my first, and second (formative) years here and it was easier to be in the top four. But now it is very difficult to win a single game. That is the reality and the ISL has become more competitive.”

On whether Mumbai City are a team that pressures other teams into committing mistakes or Goa are inexperienced at handling such matches

This is not the first time that the Islanders got the edge over the Gaurs. Although Goa were brushed aside in a 4-1 loss in the reverse fixture, the two sides tussled in the knockouts prior to this. Head coach Carlos Pena gave his verdict on whether Mumbai are too good or the onus is on his side, as he reported:

“I think Mumbai is now the best team in the league. They have shown that in 18 games and you can see a big gap with the other teams. But I’m also sure that in one game, we can beat anyone, even Mumbai. The result didn’t say that. But if you analyse more than that; if you analyse the whole game we had more chances. We scored three goals from these chances against Mumbai City. But if you commit big mistakes and if you concede so early after drawing or after scoring the first goal, you lose options to win. But as I’ve said, Mumbai is in the past. I’ve talked to the players in the dressing room about the things we did well and the ones that need improvement. So we just need to be focused on tomorrow, that is, again, a final for us.”

On how he looks at the remaining two games

FC Goa are in a tight spot with two games to go and a requirement to get all six points to be eligible for the playoffs. Even though they can reach the knockouts via a relaxed format, Pena’s men have a lot to accomplish and ensure. Speaking about the topic, the tactician explained:

“Yeah this is the result of the new competition, As you say, in the previous years only four teams used to qualify for the playoffs. But now that we have two more spots, many teams have options in the last few games. So it is inevitable that they will fight for the knockouts in these fixtures. This is the consequence of the new system but I think this is a welcome change for the league. We have more teams fighting in the battle. You can see that the table is very tight. Four teams can finish in any position and for the fans this is amazing. About us, we need to be focused on ourselves. It’s important to not look at other teams or think too much about other results. I’m not talking about the last two games but just tomorrow. We’ll be playing against Chennai at home. It will be important to us because we lost our last game to Mumbai.  We need to be strong, solid, and consistent in doing the things that we do well. That way we’ll have a lot of options to finish the day with 30 points.”

 On whether conceding five goals worried him more than the loss

Carlos Pena’s boys scored three times but conceded five times at home to eventual League shield winners Mumbai City in their last game. While FC Goa have had trouble keeping a clean sheet, they’ve only conceded four or more twice. This match exceeded that difference and prompted the mentor to mention:

“Yeah if you want to win games, and mostly with these kinds of teams it is unacceptable that you concede five goals. (That is ) the main part of the improvement we have to undergo. Sometimes it came from a collective error, and sometimes individual mistakes were at fault. Of course, it is more difficult to correct individual mistakes than collective behaviors, but we’re working on that. We analyse our mistakes at both individual and team levels so we will try to not repeat them tomorrow.” 

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