NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali wants his side to embrace the challenge when they square off against FC Goa in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Wednesday.

The Highlanders are getting ready to face another formidable opponent, having suffered a defeat against an inform Mohun Bagan Super Giant side in their last game. NorthEast United FC took the lead in that game but ended up on the losing side in a six-goal thriller in Kolkata.

Benali's team are sitting seventh in the League table after playing 15 matches with 16 points from them. Currently one place below Jamshedpur FC, they are among the few teams in the midst of a very intense battle for this season's playoffs.

Benali shared his thoughts on their recent match against MBSG and discussed how they can improve their performance in upcoming games.

"Well first Kolkata was not a big loss, it was a big lecture for everyone. It's very important to understand the game and understand how to solve problems when we have them and to control the time after the goals and end of the first half and second half. We need to control all that. We are paying the price this season for it, for the new players for everything but I am sure that we will be learning," he said in the pre-match press conference.

Their opponents, FC Goa, under Manolo Marquez, have been one of the consistent teams in the ongoing season. Their first-ever loss this season came in their previous match against Mohun Bagan SG in Matchweek 15. The Gaurs are currently placed third in the league table with 28 points from 13 games. With both teams heading into this fixture on the back of defeats, both will be determined to return to winning ways.

Benali shared his respect for FC Goa and Marquez but backed his side to make things difficult for the home team.

"About the game against FC Goa, it will be a very difficult game with the hot weather for us. It is great to be here, it is great to play against FC Goa. Always, they are very difficult games (against FC Goa). For me, they have the best coach in the ISL, Manolo (Marquez), and a very good team, with very good players. They know what they are doing. They lost the last game, which means against us they will be keen to get points. Let's try to make it as difficult as possible and be ready to fight."

New signing and striker Tomi Juric has been been in red-hot form for NorthEast United FC, having netted four goals across two ISL fixtures so far. He scored a brace against East Bengal FC in his debut ISL game. In the following game against Mohun Bagan SG, the Australian forward repeated the same.  

Benali spoke about Juric's impact despite being new to the team, but also said that other players in the team are as important as the Australian.

"Tomi (Juric) is a great player. He's a great striker, that's why we brought him. That's the most important thing. He has integrated himself very quickly, which is very good for the team. Thanks to the team, thanks to all the players, and thanks to the staff, he feels at home now. He is surrounded by very good players. All the players who play, they've started to understand him and try to put him in a good position to score and he's finishing that. It's very important for us like Baunthanglun (Samte) is important for us, and Tondonba (Singh) is important for us. Everybody is important in this team. We have 26 players, even the players who travel and players who don't travel, they are important, they are very, very important. Every player is important for us."

We have got more motivation from the loss to Mohun Bagan SG: Baunthanglun Samte 

NorthEast United FC defender Baunthanglun Samte accompanied his head coach during the press conference. He has started the previous for games for the Highlanders. Samte touched upon the positives he and the team took from their last match against MBSG, and how that will help them move forward.

"Mohun Bagan SG is a very good team. Most of their players are very senior while in NorthEast United FC, most of the players are young and learning. From that loss, we have got more motivation and more learning."

He spoke a little about the good team atmosphere they have currently in camp despite their recent result.

"For me, I have good teammates and a good coaching staff and they help me a lot. I am so happy about this. I was not expecting this when I joined NorthEast United FC. This is very good for me," the 24-year-old expressed.

Samte spoke about his equation with teammate Tondonba Singh, who are competing for the left-back slot in the team and how they keep pushing each other. 

"When I am not playing, I help Tondonba (Singh) and when I am playing, Tondonba also helps me. This is football, everybody knows (their roles). Sometimes we are down, but if I am not playing also, I am not angry and when Tondonba is not playing, he's not angry. We are helping each other, me and Tondonba. It's very good, we are very very good," he signed off.