Hyderabad FC head coach Manuel Marquez is expecting a tight encounter and feels the spectators can witness a good game as his side face Kerala Blasters FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium, in Hyderabad, on Saturday.

Both sides will face each other for the first time this season after they clashed in the Hero ISL 2021-22 final, where Hyderabad FC emerged victorious on penalties. HFC, unbeaten this season, sit top of the table with 16 points after six games, while the Blasters are placed fifth with nine points.

Marquez, who attended the post-match match press conference alongside winger Halicharan Narzary, said KBFC have the momentum on their side after two successive wins and believes the upcoming match against the Blasters could go either way.

Here are the excerpts from Marquez’s press conference:

How has the team been preparing for the game?

The preparation has been similar compared to the weeks before. We play against a very good team and practically, every game is difficult. We know it’s the same game as the final that season. But they arrive (to this game) with a very good momentum after back-to-back wins. For sure, it will be a difficult game for both sides.

The upcoming match will be a rematch of last season’s final. What are your expectations?

Not only the final, all the games that we played against Kerala Blasters FC (last season), were very equal. Kerala won 1-0 (in the first leg) but we could equalise the game. In the second leg, we won 2-1 and it was the day we qualified for the top four. KBFC had a lot of chances, but we had good luck. In the final, it’s true that we scored the goal in the final moment, but it was more or less an equal game and a draw was a fair result. Finally, we got the Hero ISL title after winning on penalties. But all the games were difficult for both teams with possibilities for both teams (to win the game). On Saturday, it will be similar.

Does a long break help the team in preparations?

Between the matches against Bengaluru FC and NorthEast United FC, we had a longer break than what we have now. In some moments, it is okay but it is not like last season where in a bubble, you play in three days and the opponents play after six days. Six days is more than enough to recover. (A long break) is not an important factor. In the bubble, we had to play consecutive games in a short span; but now, it’s good. It will be a good game for the crowd.

Your defence has not conceded a goal since the opening game of the team. What do you think of your team’s defence?

The statistics show that we have five straight clean sheets, but the opponents had chances to score, in every game. Even FC Goa missed a penalty. But this is normal in football, if you keep clean sheets. In one game, we didn’t concede much chances. But the normal thing is that you will receive a few chances. If the other team doesn’t take these chances, then you are happy because it’s a clean sheet. Last season, the questions were the opposite.

We were on top, but practically, we conceded in every game. If you don’t concede goals, it’s impossible to lose but there are teams who have finished top of the table, they have not conceded goals. But this is not our main target. We can play better. Against Mumbai City FC, we conceded a goal but the team reacted very well. We equalised the game and we could have even won. This is a strong mentality. And I am more satisfied about these things than clean sheets. Keeping clean sheets is fantastic, but we are only in matchweek six and the season is very long. Let’s see what happens.

Bart Ogbeche was last season’s top scorer, but he has not scored too often this season. Do you think it could be a problem in the long run?

If he scored the penalty against NorthEast United FC, he would be the top scorer in that moment and this question would not arise. There are good moments and bad. He had another clear chance to score with this head. Usually, he scores, but it was close to the post. But I prefer to have Bart in my team than in the opposition team. I am convinced that he will score goals during the season. It’s dangerous to say one number because you will correct me if it’s not true, but he will score.

Mumbai City FC are just a point behind Hyderabad FC. Every matchweek, there will be a team that will want to be at the top. Does it affect your preparations?

We can’t compete against Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan in the long term. In a single game, we can beat any team as we have a good team. But these teams have a lot of players (on the bench).

When I arrived here in India, the difference between Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, and the rest of the teams was very clear. In my opinion, the level is similar (this season). The difference between the teams in terms of points will be more than last season. If you remember last season, even Odisha FC and Chennaiyin FC had a chance to qualify for the playoffs with three-four games remaining.

Here are the excerpts from Narzary’s press conference:

Two goals and two assists so far, how confident do you feel going into this game?

I am feeling confident. I have been giving my best and I want to score more goals. I have played many matches at the Gachibowli stadium, and I have already scored twice. I want to score more and I am working hard.

As a senior player, how do you help the youngsters?

Whenever we train, the senior players always motivate the young players and encourage them to do well. Even if there is a mistake, we keep encouraging them, because if you keep making mistakes, you will learn from them. Off the field, we teach them about discipline in terms of diet and rest.

How would you compare the atmosphere here in Hyderabad compared to the other stadiums in India?

I will be playing for the first time here and this is our home ground. It feels good to see the supporters coming and cheering for the team. I want more supporters to come to the stadium and cheer for us, and it will be good for the team.

How are the team's preparations going on?

Our preparations have been the same. Kerala Blasters FC are a strong team, but we will play our way and we will look to maintain that.