The striker joined from reigning champins Mumbai City FC in the summer.

The Indian Super League season 2021-22 kicked-off with a blockbuster clash between ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters on November 19. Hyderabad FC will be in action four days later. Manolo Marquez’s side are one of the teams, who will be looking at the upcoming season with a lot of ambition. The outfit finished fifth in the previous edition and will hope to finally gain qualification into the playoffs. To that end, the club have signed several key players and retained Marquez as the head coach.

The Spaniard was impressive in his debut ISL campaign last year. He gave a lot of opportunities to young Indian players and played an entertaining brand of football. Marquez took part in a pre-season press conference and answered some vital questions ahead of the start of the new term. New arrival Bartholomew Ogbeche and Chinglensana Singh also joined him and presented their views on various topics.

Here is what head coach Manolo Marquez and the players had to say ahead of the start of the season:

An account of the pre-season preparation

Manolo Marquez began the conversation by expressing his views on the pre-season so far and how the teams have prepared. “Whenever you start a pre-season, you think more or less the preparations are correct. But, it was a tough pre-season because the COVID-19 situation in India after the season was very bad. We are again in the bubble and I think if you look at every team, they are working in a different way. One team like Kerala (Blasters) started very soon and another team like Mumbai (City) arrived very late.”

“Problems with SC East Bengal, FC Goa played the Durand Cup, Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan were playing Asian tournaments like AFC Cup. We decided to start in the first/second week of September and now it is more than two months of pre-season. It is difficult to know how the teams will arrive in the season, especially at the beginning of the competition,” he further added in this context.

Performance in friendlies

Hyderabad FC played several friendlies in the build-up to the new season. While talking about his analysis of the team’s performance in those games, he said, “We won against Kenkre FC in Hyderabad and against teams before entering the bubble in Goa like Salgaocar FC, Gokulam (Kerala) and Churchill Brothers.

“After entering the bio-bubble, we played three games against teams from the ISL, we didn’t win any game but I think that more or less the feeling in the team is we are playing better every time,” the Spaniard continued.

New challenges & lessons learnt

The tactician also talked about the possible new challenges that will come up in the upcoming season. He urged the team to be optimistic and said, “You have to always be positive when you start one season after another season. You have to be optimistic. However, we cannot make the mistake of comparing everything with last season. Last year was a fantastic season, but we had a feeling we lost a big chance to finish in the top four.

“We want to play good football, we want to continue with the development of the youngsters. We want to show our fans that the football of last season can repeat and even improve,” the tactician opined.

Team news ahead of opening game

Manolo Marquez suggested that he has a full squad available ahead of the match against Chennaiyin FC. While providing an update on the team, he said, “Practically, we have all the players available, but still 4-5 sessions remain before the game. We hope that we can have the whole squad. But, we don’t know if there will be any problems or not. If nothing happens, all the squad will be available for this game.”

A word on new signing Bartholomew Ogbeche 

One of the key players that HFC have signed this summer is Bartholomew Ogbeche. Talking about the striker, the head coach stated, “Ogbeche is the third-highest scorer in the ISL. He has played with NorthEast United, Kerala Blasters and last season was the ISL champion with Mumbai City. Ogbeche has scored goals all his life, we hope that he continues in the same manner. He is a very good player in this competition and a very good signing for Hyderabad for this season.”

Chinglensana Singh on experience at Hyderabad FC

Chinglensana Singh was one of the breakthrough performers last season for the Nizams. He has flourished under Manolo Marquez and learned a lot under his guidance. While talking about his experience with HFC, he said, “I think it’s a learning process. Whoever I played with has been a good learning experience. It goes so fast in football…I look forward to continuing learning, improving, progressing and enjoying the sport for as long as I can. It’s a blessing and I want to continue doing that.”

Bartholomew Ogbeche on Hyderabad FC squad

Former NEUFC and MCFC striker Bartholomew Ogbeche is one of the key signings made by HFC this season. While talking about the new arrivals and the overall impression of the team, the Nigerian quoted, “I think we have a strong squad. Pretty much a young squad, but we have been together for two months now in pre-season and unfortunately we all have not been able to be together for those two months (due to the pandemic restrictions and national duties).

“I think we will need a lot of consistency, which sometimes tends to be the flaw in young players. I think Juanan knows the league better than any of us and they (the new foreigners) are top players, we’ll need their mentality and energy. The majority of the squad has been retained from last season, I only see us strive to do better this season and I’m sure we are going to have a great season together,” Ogbeche gleamed while talking about new additions to the squad.

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