The tactician also spoke about his team’s next game against NorthEast United.

It will be a battle of two teams with contrasting fortunes in the Indian Super League on Monday. Second from bottom NorthEast United will take on league leaders Hyderabad FC. While the Highlanders will look to start salvaging their season, the Nizams are enjoying a remarkable campaign under head coach Manolo Marquez.

The tactician spoke to the media ahead of the clash. Here are the excerpts:

Mood in the camp after back-to-back wins

Manolo Marquez: “The mood is better after the two wins. Usually, in the second leg of the league, it’s difficult to get wins. Practically, all of the teams are still in the battle to arrive in top four. We are happy with the six points, but now we have to focus on the next opponent.”

How realistic are the chances of winning the championship or going into the playoffs?

Manolo Marquez: “It’s too early to say. The fight for the top four maybe will last till the final game. The first eight teams have the possibility to qualify. It is very unpredictable because there are a lot of games between the teams fighting for the top four.”

Expectations from the upcoming game with NEUFC which has new foreign players?

Manolo Marquez: “It’s fantastic that we have the top scorer in the league, but it is very important that other players contribute with some goals. I think it was positive to score three goals, win the game and one day Bart (Bartholomew Ogbeche) did not score, it is good that we have more players who can score.

“They (NEUFC) deserved to win against Chennaiyin FC very clearly. They hit the crossbar multiple times in the second half. This NorthEast United team is more similar to the previous season, with good foreigners and enthusiastic Indian players. It will be a difficult game 100%.”

How important is the balance for the team having scored most goals and being solid in defence?

Manolo Marquez: “If you get to continue with this balance, you have a lot of possibilities to finish in the top four. If you are the team to score most goals and one of the teams to concede less, obviously the balance is very good. But, there are teams with many games left, it’s impossible to know which is the real table.”

Importance of performing consistently despite the COVID situation

Manolo Marquez: “We have to continue in this line and at this moment ISL has to reschedule the (postponed) games because we cannot wait till the end. Some teams like Jamshedpur FC, ATK and Kerala Blasters, play 1-2 games and then they will play the rescheduled games. But, they cannot wait and put these games at the end of the championship, as it will be negative for the competition.

“The other day we knew at 3:45 PM that Sana (Chinglensana Singh) could not play and Juanan could play. It’s not only a problem for Hyderabad, but I want to say that unpredictability of players is negative for Indian football. In pre-season, nobody wants to record the games, know the lineups. The football would grow if there are maximum number of formations for every team. 

Has the rule of four foreigners benefitted Indian players who are getting more game-time?

Manolo Marquez: “We are in a strange championship. If all the league is in the same situation, I could answer better. But, in my personal opinion, before the season began, four players on the pitch were okay. But, five players in the squad is better than six. More Indian players would have the chance to play and would have one foreign substitution.”

How important it is to maintain momentum with upcoming matches being against top four challengers?

Manolo Marquez: “It’s better to win all the games, but if you win a game against a team that is fighting for top four, it’s not only three points for you, but less three for the opponents. I think it is not about teams fighting for the top four, but about the moment of the opponent when you play against them. Till now, all the games have been difficult.”

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