Hyderabad FC head coach Manuel Marquez heaped praise on his opposite number, Bengaluru FC head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli, for silencing his critics after a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for his team in recent weeks. The two teams will be facing each other at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim, Goa on Friday.

Hyderabad FC lost 1-2 to ATK Mohun Bagan in the previous game, but are still at the top of the league table, with 26 points from 15 matches, having already won seven games in the season so far, going along with five draws. A win against Bengaluru FC will consolidate their position at the pinnacle.

Marquez addressed the media during the pre-match press conference ahead of Friday’s game.

Here are the excerpts from the press conference:

You were unhappy with the team’s first half performance in the game against ATK Mohun Bagan. What went wrong?

We didn't play in the first half (against ATK Mohun Bagan), I was very angry because we lost easy balls, even without pressure. We passed the ball to the opponents close to our box, and the team started to play after conceding the second goal. It’s true that we started well in the second half with a very clear chance from Rohit Danu that touched the crossbar, but after (conceding) two goals, I think that we played very, very well.

During that 20-25 minutes, we had a lot of clear chances, four-five, very clear chances, but in the last five minutes, plus injury time, we were nervous. We did not attack well at the last moment and they had very clear chances to finish the game.

Do you feel that the loss against ATK Mohun Bagan was a setback? How do you plan to avoid these narrow defeats in the future?

It's the first game that we lost in the second leg. In football, it is impossible to win every game in a regular season. Sometimes you play good games, sometimes you play bad. Sometimes you play well and don't win. Sometimes you play badly and win games. I think the other day, we didn't play a good game in general, except for a phase in the second half.

And we lost against a very strong side. Now, we have to be focused on Bengaluru because there are still five games to play and the fight for the top four and the championship is still open for a lot of teams.

Bengaluru FC are unbeaten in their last nine matches. What is your assessment of the team?

It is again the same thing. We cannot think about how many points we need. We have to play against a BFC and see what happens. If we win, we will see things in a different way.

And if we lose, we have to continue because till the last round, nothing will be decided. I think that we have to fight and we have to be focused in every game because all of them are very difficult. But for the other teams, it's exactly the same.

Bengaluru FC are three points behind Hyderabad FC. They have 11 goalscorers and your team has 10 goal scorers. Do you expect an end to end game tomorrow?

I think that will be a difficult game for us, but it will be a difficult game for them too. Another thing that I want to say is that I am happy for Marco (Pezzaiuoli), for the coach, because as a coach, sometimes you receive a lot of criticism. And, now I want to look where are these people who criticised him? It was very easy to criticise when things are bad, and now they are silent.

I think Bengaluru, they have good players. They have a clear style that they play, they are very strong in some aspects and they have very good players in all the lines. And I think that will be very difficult for us. But I think that if we are in our best performance, it will be a very difficult one for them too.

Cleiton Silva and Sunil Chhetri have picked up form in the recent games. How do you plan to stop them?

Cleiton Silva, Sunil Chhetri, Prince Ibara, Udanta Singh, Danish Farooq, All the players who can score in set pieces. And it's not about Cleiton or Chhetri. You are speaking about two very good players, but I think that they have a lot of players that can score. For example, Roshan Naorem Singh is a very good young player. And with a great future in Indian football, not just only for Bengaluru FC. of course Chhetri and Cleiton are very dangerous, but we have to be focused on all the players, we have to be focused in our style of play.