FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez is encouraging his players to demonstrate their character as they prepare to play against Mumbai City FC in the first leg of the semi-final 2 of the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Wednesday.

The Gaurs have been winless in each of their last 10 face-offs against Mumbai City FC in the ISL. They have shared spoils twice against the Islanders in the ISL 2023–24 season, playing out a 1-1 draw in the away fixture, and their home match in Goa ended in a goalless draw.

Under Marquez's leadership, the Gaurs have qualified for the semi-final for the seventh time and for the first time since the 2020-21 season.

FC Goa have only lost three out of their 22 league-stage matches, winning 13 games and drawing six. The Gaurs are coming into this fixture on the back of five straight wins, with the latest being the 2-1 win over Chennaiyin FC in the Knockout.

Throughout the campaign, Marquez’s team has been a regular contender for the ISL League Shield award but missed the title by just three points.

Marquez is anticipating a close game against Mumbai City FC in the forthcoming two-leg semi-final match. He has identified the differences between playoff matches and league-stage matches, urging his players to stay on their feet and present a significant challenge against Petr Kratky’s team.

"The improvement is there. The thing is that the games in the playoffs are completely different from those in the regular season. We could analyze our matches against Chennaiyin FC from the other day (both games). In the ISL, the regular season was entirely different from the other day. On the other day, you have to win or you go home. These are knockout competitions. We will face a strong side, but my feeling is that the games will be very equal because even in the regular season competition, we drew both games,” Marquez said in the pre-match press conference.

The head coach commended the Islanders’ squad depth and their performance over the past few seasons. Marquez is fully aware of the challenges his opponents could present in such matches, emphasizing the need for his players to maintain concentration throughout the game and address minor details during critical moments.

"Usually, the games I've played against Mumbai City FC, not only this season but also in previous seasons, have been good. Tactically, they are a strong team with talented players and a cohesive collective,” he stated.

“I think that we are in a good moment and again, it’s not a game of 90 minutes. It’s a game of at least 180 if there is no extra time. We need to manage all the situations. When you are winning, when you are losing, and when nothing is happening during the game, we need to manage all the situations,” he continued.

The Spaniard believes that the ultimate winner of the semi-final 2 will be decided in the second leg as he emphasized the importance of maintaining focus on the game until the final whistle by keeping their nerves.

“You need to know how to manage all the situations in a game. You need to be calm, but you also need to be brave at the same moment. Now, we don’t need to change many things,” he commented.

“I have the feeling that we could've won the shield. But we fought till the end, which means that it has been a good season. But tomorrow, it’s completely different, and the 29th will be the same (in the second leg). And I think, in Mumbai, it will be decided who will qualify,” he further added.

Explaining his prior experience managing knockout games, Marquez emphasized that the team approaching the game correctly, showcasing their mental strength in the most significant phases, would find themselves advancing to the finals.

Speaking in context, he said, "I have the experience of playing against Carl (McHugh) last season in the semi-final; it was nil-nil, nil-nil, and there were good moments for Mohun Bagan SG and Hyderabad FC and moments where nothing happened in the game. It’s about control.”

“For example, if you score a goal, okay, very good, but you need to keep going. If you miss a chance, okay, forget this chance, and let’s go for the next action. The team that is mentally stronger usually is the team that qualifies for the semi-final, in this case for the final,” he signed off.

We need to focus on the small details: Carl McHugh


Veteran midfielder Carl McHugh accompanied his head coach ahead of the high-voltage semi-final against Mumbai City FC, hosted on their home turf. The Irish footballer has been an integral part of Marquez’s team, showcasing his versatility and mature understanding of the game.

So far this season, McHugh has successfully completed 908 passes with a passing accuracy of 78%, averaging 52 passes per game. As a defensive midfielder, he has also made 160 recoveries, 23 interceptions, and 35 clearances, in addition to contributing to four goals.

Reflecting on FC Goa’s performance throughout the season, he said, "Overall, it has been a positive season. We are disappointed we could not finish higher up the table in the league, but it’s a big improvement in where the club has been in the last few years.”

McHugh now aims to finish the season on a higher note, clinching the first ISL trophy for FC Goa.

“We still have a lot to do, and we are ambitious to finish the season with a trophy—it was our aim at the start of the year. We are in a position now where we are fighting for the trophy and we want to be through to the final next week,” he added.

Echoing his head coach, McHugh also prioritized maintaining their shape in the decisive moments to cut down on silly mistakes and bring about positive results in these critical fixtures.

Addressing the situation, he remarked, "I think we just have to focus on what’s in front of us. We’re playing against a good team in the league. It’s going to come down to small details and small margins over the two legs. We just need to remain focused on what’s in front of us in this game.”

“Focus on the small details; try and bring our best performance, and I think it will give us a great chance,” he concluded.