FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena expects an equal and tough contest when his side take on ATK Mohun Bagan in matchweek 13 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Wednesday.

FC Goa are currently unbeaten in their previous three matches while ATK Mohun Bagan saw their four-match unbeaten streak come to an end after going down to NorthEast United FC in their last game. There is very little to separate the two sides in the Hero ISL standings, with fourth-placed ATK Mohun Bagan a point and a place ahead of FC Goa, who lie in the fifth spot.

Since their 0-3 defeat against the Gaurs in the reverse fixture, the Mariners registered 1-0 wins in three straight games before sharing the spoils with Odisha FC in Bhubaneshwar in their four-match unbeaten run. However, Pena was aware of the quality Juan Ferrando’s side have despite the lack of goals by them in the recent fixtures.

“They have very good players. Before the last defeat (to NorthEast United FC), they had won their previous four games besides drawing to Odisha FC. They have a good squad and quality players in attack,” Pena said at the pre-match press conference.

“We have to be very focused in terms of our defensive work and try to punish them when we attack. It’s going to be an equal game and a tough game for us. It will be a clash between two teams who are fighting for the playoffs and are very close in the Hero ISL standings. We will go to Kolkata with no fear, trying to get the three points,” he mentioned.

FC Goa beat ATK Mohun Bagan in dominant fashion in the reverse fixture in Goa with Aiban Dohling, Fares Arnaout and Noah Sadaoui getting on the scoresheet. Pena described that fixture as one of his side’s best performances during the season and called for his side to repeat the same in Kolkata on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a different game from what we play in Goa. We dominated the game against them in all aspects and that was one of our best performances during the season. We faced them with a lot of energy, with a good positive pressure and we competed really well. If we want to have options to win games after Wednesday, we need to have the same attitude (like we did when we played ATKMB previously),” Pena explained.

In their previous fixture where they drew 2-2 against Jamshedpur FC, Pena handed youngsters Makan Chothe and Brison Fernandes their first start of the season. The FC Goa head coach revealed that he will continue giving more chances to young players as the season progresses.

“We have very good young players here. They are the future of the club and we are here to help them grow and to make sure the club grows in the same way,” he said.

When questioned about the balance between giving chances to youngsters and getting results, Pena mentioned that the young players have been getting game time as they have been helping the team in the present.

“If they young players are starting, it’s because they are deserve it. I want to win. I am looking towards the future of the club, but I am also focusing on the present. They (young players) are ready to play. They have things to improve on, but this is my way,” he explained.

“Those who deserve, will play. I won’t see the nationality when it comes to deciding who will play (in the starting eleven). They (young players) are helping us a lot in the present and because of that, they are having minutes. They are going to be even more important in the future if they keep on going and keep continuing in the same way. Now, they are ready to help the team and handle the pressure,” he concluded.