FC Goa, led by Manolo Marquez, is set to face East Bengal FC in the quest for victory, at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Margao on Wednesday during Matchweek 18 of the Indian Super League (ISL)2023-24. The head coach analysed his team's performance in the first half of the season and also highlighted how his team has been coping psychologically in between matches.

FC Goa currently stands in fourth place in the league and still has a chance to become this year's ISL Shield winner mathematically. The team has acquired 29 points from 16 games but has only managed to secure two points in the last five matches. Meanwhile, East Bengal FC has earned six points in their previous five matches and is aiming for the sixth playoff spot this season. They are currently in ninth place on the league table with 18 points after playing 17 games.

In the reverse fixture in ISL, the last time Manolo Marquez met Carles Cuadrat's East Bengal FC, the Gaurs won 2-1 and took home all three points.

The press conference began with head coach Manolo Marquez addressing the team's recent poor form. He shared his perspective on the reasons behind the drop-in form. "In the first leg, our form was incredible, I repeat this: in the first leg, we won some games that we didn't deserve to win," he said during the pre-match press conference.

"My feeling is that we could come back with six points in Kerala and Mumbai but we only came back with one. The team performed well in the first half in Kerala and very well in Mumbai too, but only 45 minutes were bad, 45 minutes in Kerala killed us. Finally, in the regular season, every team will finish in the position that they deserve. Still, not all is done, let's see what happens in the end," he added.

The Spaniard explained the contrasting difference in FC Goa's performance in the first 45 minutes and the second 45 minutes in the matches they failed to win. He said, "It's true, for the first half and second in Mohan Bagan FC game was similar but finally one action decided the game," he said.

"It's true that some moments in the first leg and even the other day in Mumbai, when the opponents scored before us, the team reacted very well but this was not the case against Mohun Bagan FC. Against NorthEast United FC the first goal was hard because when you don't expect and think that it's normal to lose one game and then you play again at home thanking you can win, yet finally one penalty and the mentality of the team gets bad in that moment... if you don't play a good game, a draw is better," he added.

Marquez shared his thoughts on Dheeraj Singh, the second goalkeeper for the Gaurs, and praised his professionalism.

"I have a special relationship with him, I love this guy, it's incredible, the good professional that he is," Marquez said.

"The most difficult thing to do in being a coach is to be fair and in a lot of moments I thought that I was not fair to him, I was fair with Arshdeep Singh because he was playing well, he deserved to play but we also know the kind of goalkeeper that is Dheeraj Singh," he added.

"All these things are always in my head. The way he trains is a great example for young players, he's always pushing and always training at the top level. I told him that in the wall he's the best Indian goalkeeper. Sometimes when the team is winning it's difficult to change, especially since goalkeeper is a special position." Marquez stated.  

I have been waiting for this opportunity: Dheeraj Singh 

Dheeraj Singh, the 23-year-old Manipur native has had a season void of opportunities in the starting lineup of  Manolo Marquez's Gaurs. Having only featured in the playing XI in their last match against Mumbai City FC, as part of Marquez's tactical change ahead of the match.

Singh talked about his return to the playing XI after a long absence and expressed his admiration for his fellow keeper, Arshdeep Singh, who has achieved remarkable success so far this season.

He said, "We still have six games in the regular league, I have been waiting for this opportunity. I have huge respect for Arshdeep Singh, the way he came up and how he performed, it's not easy for any goalkeeper to earn seven clean sheets. I have been waiting for this opportunity while trying to improve myself in the areas that I could and finally, I get a chance. It's time for me now to do better. And try to get maximum points from the remaining games."

The 23-year-old concluded the press conference by discussing the upcoming responsibilities for himself and his team this season.

"It's a difficult game, and it's going to be difficult in every game that's ahead of us. We need to prepare ourselves. It's a normal game but I know it's going to be difficult. We need to play as a team together, performing collectively will give us a good result," he said, as the press conference came to an end.