FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez revealed the injury concern ahead of the trip to face NorthEast United FC in Matchweek 12 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday.

FC Goa remain the only unbeaten team so far this season with 23 points off nine games. With the best defensive record in ISL this season, the Gaurs have conceded the lowest number of goals (4), while securing six clean sheets in the process. 

Against NorthEast United FC, Marquez’s men will look forward to continuing their brilliant run of form with the aim of ending the year sitting at the top of the league table. 

Third goalkeeper Hrithik Tiwari accompanied Marquez to the press conference. Although he hasn’t taken the field as of yet, Tiwari is happy to have been going through a great learning experience.

“For now, it is a big thing for me that I am getting to learn so much. Great learning experience,” stated Tiwari in the pre-match press conference.

He added, “Everyday I am learning something new in the training from the other goalkeepers and the coaches.”

Tiwari has displayed maturity sitting on the bench, accepting that there is a lot of competition for game time in the squad. He looks forward to going ahead step by step. 

“I do need match time but for now there is a lot of competition so accordingly, step by step it will come,” Tiwari said.

The Gaurs will miss Spanish midfielder Victor Rodriguez who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season, suffering an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury during their 4-1 victory over Mohun Bagan Super Giant in Matchweek 11.

Expressing his disappointment, Marquez stated, “He is, for me, one of the top players in ISL because maybe he's one of our best players, if not the best. And (if) we are on top then means that obviously he is a top player and was in a very, very good moment. He is very clever. He understands the game, that not too many players understand, what he has to do in every situation. And I know him for a long time. I was his coach 12 years ago during two seasons. And the worst thing in a career for a player is the injuries.”

The Spaniard believes it is a difficult task to find a replacement for Rodriguez in the middle of the season as there’s a lot to think about. 

“It's difficult because sometimes to find a player in the middle of the season is not easy as to players that are not playing or free players. It's not easy because we know the quality of Victor too. Sometimes you are thinking a lot of things,” shared Marquez.

The 55-year-old acknowledged NorthEast United FC coach Juan Pedro Benali as one of the best coaches in the league. 

He said, “I think that we will face, in my opinion, one of the best coaches in ISL at this moment because they are playing practically with the same team, a very similar team to last season, same Indian players. Even (Romain) Philippoteaux was there last season, but they have already more than double the points as compared to last season. They are very competitive. They prepare very good, (for) the games specifically. They don't play the same system in every game.”