FC Goa and Bengaluru FC are currently placed in the bottom half of the points table.

On a five-match unbeaten run, Bengaluru FC will hope to close in on the playoffs spots when they play a topsy-turvy FC Goa side on Sunday. In their last game before the two-week extended break due to a COVID outbreak in the camp, Marco Pezzaiuoli’s side trounced the defending champions Mumbai City 3-0. Derrick Pereira-coached Goa enter this clash on the back of a 2-1 defeat to SC East Bengal.

Goa will recall their 2-1 win over the same opposition in the reverse fixture, one of their only three wins in 12 games this season. Pezzaiuoli’s Bengaluru FC have the same number of victories, but from a game less. Both teams also share the same number of draws (4) and losses (5) this season. A win can take Bengaluru FC to sixth. Goa can move to the same spot, depending on the number of goals they score.

Ahead of the mach, both coaches — Marco Pezzaiuoli and Derrick Pereira — spoke at the pre-match press conference and shared their thoughts on the upcoming match, the COVID situation in their respective camps and more.

Bengaluru FC coach Marco Pezzaiuoli

How is everybody in bubble?

Marco Pezzaiuoli: Our club has been very professional because after the game against Mumbai, we had some symptoms. We put every player in single rooms, had them in quarantine for 10 days. Right now, we have 11 cases amongst players and staff. We started training again, but had another case yesterday, which is strange.

The two days of training was good because the boys were eager to go out and just be able to kick a ball. A lot of smiles on the pitch, which is also important because it’s not easy. Our team for training changes too, which is also not ideal.

You don’t know in the end which player will join the team because every day you are surprised to have new cases. That’s why on Sunday, we will know exactly who will be there in the team. Then we can make the right decision, the right tactic for the game.

How mentally challenging is current situation?

Marco Pezzaiuoli: Not easy. Honestly, I was down for 1-2 days after quarantine, it was difficult for me to motivate myself. But, the closer you get to the game, the sharper you feel and get the energy back. Same goes with the players, that’s what I saw in the training. But, we have to deal with it.

It is really difficult when the games are cancelled. For example, when a player is coming out of the 12-day quarantine, he can play football according to the league rules. But normally, he cannot play because he has no heart control, he didn’t train which implies high risk of injuries. This makes no sense to put this kind of a player on the pitch. We, as a club, are very clear on this.

Thoughts on FC Goa & expectations from game

Marco Pezzaiuoli: They (FC Goa) were a bit unlucky in finishing. However, still FC Goa is the best team in terms of ball possession in the league. Their 2-1 win against us means that we need to be prepared. We stayed 10 days in quarantine, we need to be fit as long as possible.

FC Goa have a new playing style after the new coach. They try to play offensive, they have a good mix of foreign and Indian players. We are a strong team, that’s why I have very much confidence in our team.

We learned from our mistakes in our last game against FC Goa, especially in set-pieces and defence. Bengaluru dominated most of that game, so we’ll have to take advantage of that this time around.

Tactically, as coaching staff, we have to think whether high pressing and a high-intensity game is the right situation after a 10-day quarantine of the players. So, it’s more about communicating stuff to the players, reacting to situations and maybe changing the style during the games.

FC Goa coach Derrick Pereira

FC Goa have missed multiple chances to climb up the points ladder

Derrick Pereira: This season hasn’t been good for us right from the beginning. I think we need to change our approach for the remaining games. Our focus was to qualify for the semi-finals, maybe that put us under a lot of pressure. The players were giving their best. Now, we have to get out of all the things that haven’t gone our way. Referees’ decisions or lack of preparation, which were not possible in the circumstances. We owe it to our fans.

Thoughts on Bengaluru FC

Derrick Pereira: They are in good form right now. They have changed their style of play. We have to go there believing everything is possible in football. Yes, right now we are low on confidence, but we have to overcome it. We need to put in more than 100% effort and play our hearts out. If we do that then we will do well.

How tough it is to keep spirits high under these circumstances?

Derrick Pereira: Specially after our last match’s result, yes, it is tough to lift everybody up in these conditions. I know our players are brave and courageous. I’m sure they will come out of it. We believe that there is always time to move forward. It’s in our hands now to get out of this situation, by going out there to put in more than what we are doing right now.

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