The coach is wary of all teams while backing the Gaurs to finish strong.

FC Goa will face Odisha FC at the Kalinga stadium on Monday in the ISL 2022-23 in a crucial game for both sides. While the former sits in the fifth palace, the Kalinga Warriors are right behind with a marginal three point difference. Head coach Carlos Pena recognized the fact that Josep Gombau’s men are competent contenders for the knockouts.

New signing Hernan Santana attended the press conference ahead of the match alongside the coach to answer the media.

On the knockouts

FC Goa are on the verge of a return to the knockout stages after an embarrassing finish last season. However, with space running out for every team, the tactician realizes that it is a do-or-die for all clubs. Carlos Pena said:

“We are confident because we are performing well, And we have realised and noticed that now every game is a battle for everyone. It’s not easy for anyone to get even one point. All the teams are praying. Chennaiyin FC has a chance to finish in the playoff berths. East Bengal, Jamshedpur, and NorthEast all want to finish their seasons well. So now, every game is going to be very important. The most critical thing at the moment is the game on Monday. We need to have a good game and get all three points. Odisha (FC) are a direct opponent for us so the game is very important for us. When you win, all the results will be favourable for you. But we need to get points and win games and only then can we see which position we find ourselves in.”

On the recovering Fares and Hernan’s arrival

After already sustaining an injury in the squad in Marc Valiente, Goa are a little short on centre-backs. With Fares also nursing a minor injury, Hernan Santana’s addition is a much-welcome relief to Carlos Pena. The manager voiced his contentment and reported:

“Well we still have things to decide because we only have today before the game. Fares attended the training session today of course. Let’s see whether he recovers in time for the game and how he fares. And of course I’m happy that Hernan is here for this game and that he’s with us. He’s absolutely fit and ready to help the team. As he said before, he’s familiar with our playing style and he himself is a player who’s comfortable with the ball. He can play in different positions, is a leader, and has very vital experience. Let’s see how he can help us during the game.”

On playing in China 

The defensive midfielder and defender spoke about his experience playing under Sergio Lobera at Sichuan Jiuniu. He plied his trade with the Spanish manager’s historic Mumbai City side and later joined him at the Chinese side. Moreover, he said:

“First thing, in China everyone knows the situation in the country. The last season was very hard for me as a foreign player. But that is in the past. Now, I’m here and I’m very happy to be back in India. My last two seasons in India were really really hard in a (bio)bubble. For me it’s a new challenge; a new experience playing here in Goa while leading a normal life. So let’s see. ”

On whether it was an easy decision to sign with Goa

FC Goa signed the former Islanders and Highlanders player in the winter window. The move happened on an expedited basis, especially since foreign centre-back Marc Valiente has been ruled out for the season due to injury. Santana informed the media about how big of a decision it was to return to the ISL when he mentioned, “It was really quick, you know? I was trying to break my contract when Goa suddenly called me. Marc’s (Valiente) injury accelerated the process. I don’t remember exactly but I think I made this decision in two days. I know the league and team very well so the decision was very easy.”

On the atmosphere at FC Goa compared to NorthEast United FC

Santana had a difficult season at NorthEast United FC last time out. The club faced a tumultuous time under Khalid Jamil, as they finished tenth in the league standings. Speaking about the same, the centre-back chose to focus on the future as he replied”

“It’s my third team in my three seasons in India at (FC) Goa. Everybody knows what happened last season with NorthEast United FC. It was a difficult season for all the teams. My first season here with Mumbai (City) was amazing and I had some great moments with them. But now I’m focused on my new team. We have a big game against Odisha. I’m a professional player. Now I defend the orange colour and it’s time to get all three points in the next game.”  

For more updates, follow Khel Now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and join our community on Telegram.