Bengaluru FC can win games without being at their best: Hyderabad FC's Manolo Marquez

Hyderabad FC head coach Manolo Marquez said that his team is fully prepared for the challenge of facing Bengaluru FC and believes that it will be an equal game with two different playing styles, as his side squares off against the Durand Cup champions at the GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium in Hyderabad on Saturday.

In what would be a replay of the Durand Cup semi-final, Marquez is confident of his side coming out on top against the Blues this time. The Spaniard had words of praise for his opponent and stated that they are a team with a good organisation, having the capability to fight for the top four.

Moreover, the head coach, along with midfielder Hitesh Sharma, addressed the media and spoke about the development of football in Hyderabad, his first visit to their home stadium amidst the return of fans, his plan to tackle BFC, and a lot more in the official pre-match press conference ahead of the clash on Saturday.

Here are the excerpts from his press conference:

HFC got four points from the first two games. What is your assessment of the team at the start of the season?

Marquez: We started very well. The team is competitive, we started against a very strong side in Mumbai City FC, and I think that was a good game for the crowd, not for the coaches. The other day, the team played a good game against NorthEast United FC, but this is a league where if you look at the table, it is equal. Only Goa, who have played one game, have secured full points while the other teams need to get more wins. This means that there is an equal competition and I think practically, every press conference will be very similar.

What is your assessment of the opponent, Bengaluru FC?

Marquez: They have a new coach (Simon Grayson). They have extremely good individual players and the best quality about them is that with not too much, they can win the games because they have incredibly good players in attack. They have a playing style that they are comfortable with, but they have very good players in set-pieces, very good players for deliveries. With such a team in modern football, having a good organisation is sometimes enough to win games.

I think Bengaluru FC are one of the teams we can see fighting for the top four. We know how tough BFC can be, as they showed in the last two games. However, we are a strong team too and I am sure that my side will be ready to fight for all three points on Saturday.

You have already faced Simon Grayson’s BFC in the Durand Cup and came out with an unwanted result. How different do you see things this time around?

Marquez: I think it will be a different game because at that moment we were playing the Durand Cup. I know that it was a prestigious tournament and Asia’s oldest tournament but we played all of our (group stage) matches in Imphal. Then we played Rajasthan United and arrived in the semi-final against Bengaluru FC where they won the game.

I think that this will be an equal game with different styles. Everything and anything can happen, let’s see. However, we are ready for the game and we are confident that we can beat them.

You might have got a taste of how football (culture) is in India. How would you see it different from Spain - where you come from?

Marquez: Here (in India), I know there are several religions, but in Spain, another religion is football. Practically speaking, all the older people are supporters of many teams, not just Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. In India, the competition is very young, the Hero ISL is only in its ninth edition, but I know that football is an old sport in India. Obviously, it’s not number one due to cricket.

Nevertheless, this is one of our main targets now. We know that in the 50s and 60s, Hyderabad had their team Hyderabad Police and they were champions, having many of their players in the Indian national team. Now, we have some players in the national team but there weren’t many in the last season but we have to continue in this manner because it’s not only about one year. If we want football to grow in Hyderabad, the club needs to develop more in all aspects, not only on the pitch and they are, obviously, trying (their best).

You will be playing for the first time in front of your home crowd at the GMC Balayogi Stadium. What does it mean for you and the team?

Marquez: The other day I spoke about how two years in the bubble was pretty far (from the fans). We received a lot of love on social media and we knew at that moment, we had a lot of supporters behind us. At least, we had good luck when we played our first game with a crowd in the stadium in last season’s final (against Kerala Blasters FC). Although most of them supported KBFC, there were fans who were supporting us. To play for them on Saturday is going to be fantastic because we are wishing to play in front of the fans and we want to make the game about them.

Any updates on the team for Saturday’s match?

Marquez: Yes. I know that coaches don’t like to tell the truth but this is not a problem for me. Akash Mishra is recovering for Saturday’s game. Practically, the other players are the same. All of them are available except the dangerous players such as Rohit Danu, Gurmeet Singh, and Joel Chianese have injury issues, rest all 24-25 players are available.

Hyderabad FC have a very similar style of play, you also like to attack while being rather lenient at the back, similar to Bengaluru who have Roy Krishna in attack and a good defence too. So, how are you expecting the match to be on Saturday? Is there something specific?

Marquez: No, the only thing is that, at this moment, I think that it (BFC) is the only team that is playing with three centre-backs and two wing-backs in the Hero ISL.  They are comfortable with this style because they have very dangerous players in attack. They are comfortable in the attack; they are comfortable because they have good and strong players at the back accompanied by the best goalkeeper in India, or at least the best given that he plays in the national team.

I think they have a different style than us. I think in terms of possession, we will have more possession than they will, but we need to work around the ball while having the position and score, as I prefer to score the first goal. The main target is to win the game, this is our style, and they have another style. I think there will be two different styles in the game on Saturday and it will be unpredictable.

You see, many games in the Hero ISL, they start in one way and finally turn in another way. Kerala Blasters against ATK Mohun Bagan, Odisha against Jamshedpur, ATK Mohun Bagan vs Chennaiyin, a lot of games are shaping in one way and then the second half is totally different, so we have to try and control maximum minutes (of the game) as possible.

Any specific plans for the trio of Siva (Narayanan), Krishna (Roy), and Chhetri (Sunil)?

Marquez: We know that they are very good players, very good forwards. All three of them have different styles, but I think we cannot change (our style). In some moments, when we play against some teams, we change (our style), but in general, we always try to play our style because I think if we try to change our style, it won't be good for our team.

Here are the excerpts from Hitesh Sharma’s press conference:

After the Durand Cup, how have your preparations for the Hero ISL been coming along?

Sharma: I think, as the coach said, Durand Cup was pre-season, so the focus has been on the Hero ISL only. The preparation has been good (so far), it’s like a mountain that you have to climb. Step by step improvement is important to enhance your game.

After two years of being in bio-bubble, you are returning to the home turf of HFC at the Gachibowli stadium. How excited are you and what is the mood in the dressing room like?

Sharma: Obviously, these are the moments we were waiting for and we are excited to play in front of the fans. Everyone is excited to see the fans on Saturday against Bengaluru FC and we hope to put on a good show.

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