FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena stated their upcoming match will be another final as they host Chennaiyin FC in the latest fixture of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Goa, on Thursday.

The Gaurs sit in sixth position of the league table and would be looking to secure the three points which will bring them closer to a seat in the top six. 

Odisha FC are sitting on FC Goa's tail are level with them in the points tally. With the Gaurs failing to make safe ground after their defeat against Mumbai City FC in the previous match, they will be desperate for the three points to stay in contention for the playoffs. Pena reflected on his side's defeat and urged his players to learn from the mistakes.

"I think Mumbai City FC are the best team in the league. They have shown in the past 18 games. You can see a big gap with other teams, but we can beat any team on our day, even Mumbai City FC. The result didn't justify that but if you analyze the whole game more than the goals, we scored three goals against Mumbai City FC and created a lot of chances. If you commit mistakes and you concede just after scoring then you lose options. The game against Mumbai City FC is in the past and I've told my players to focus on the next match which is another final for us," Pena stated in the official pre-match press conference.

With all teams having played 18 games of the season, the race for the top six has intensified and teams are more than determined to fight for the desired playoff spot. The Spaniard commented on the new playoffs format and feels it has made the league even more competitive.

"This is the result of the new format. In the previous years, only four teams qualified for the playoffs but now, you have two more spots, so many teams have the option to fight till the last game and reach the playoffs. This is the consequence of the new season and I think this is good for the league. You can see that now four teams are in contention and this is amazing for the fans but we need to be focused on our matches and not look at other fixtures. We need to focus on Thursday's match against Chennaiyin FC which is an important game for us at home. We need to be strong, solid and consistent, this way we'll have the opportunity to finish the day with 30 points," he said.

The Gaurs became the first club to reach the 300-goal mark in Hero ISL history. Their three goals against Mumbai City FC has resulted in the side scoring the second-most goals (34) in the league so far while also conceding 30 goals, the highest among the top six. Despite their quality in front of the goal, Pena is concerned with his side's issues at the back and wants them to find the right balance in achieving the results.

"When my team concedes goals, I'm always worried. We are second in most goals scored in the league after Mumbai City FC but it's true that in the last few games, we've been conceding too much. If we want to win games and get points against the top teams, we have to improve that, but in football, everything is about balance. So, I think we are not bad in defence, some situations are difficult to control because sometimes the quality of the opponent also matters. We need to focus on what depends on us and how to score more goals than the opponent," he added.

The Gaurs finished ninth last season in a campaign that was characterised by several changes in the management. It was a lopsided season as the Gaurs failed to qualify for the semi-finals. Pena pointed out at the team's progress from last season whilst reiterating top six being the main motto of the team.

"We come from a season where FC Goa finished in the ninth position and expectations must be under control. There are many teams with big potential and we've been at the top during all the seasons. Finishing in the top six is the objective of the season," Pena concluded.

Midfielder Edu Bedia accompanied Pena in the official pre-match press conference. Bedia has been with the Gaurs since the 2017-18 season and has matured over the years to be the captain of his side. The midfielder talked about the evolution of the league as a competitive one ever since he joined Hero ISL.

"Every season is different, maybe this season is more competitive than the last one. There are many many teams fighting for the top six in the Hero ISL points table. In my first season here it was easier to get into the top four but now it's very difficult to win even a single game. This is the reality, Hero ISL is more competitive," Bedia said in the official pre-match press conference.

The 33-year-old has made more than 100 appearances for FC Goa and remains one of the most important figures in the club. The Spaniard felt that his side put the pressure on Mumbai City FC in the previous game and urged the team to keep the momentum going. 

"We started the first half very well against them (Mumbai City FC) and we were better than them but we made some mistakes which they punished. We did good, we have to follow the same for the next game. Now we are focusing on the competition and the matches are very important now as we enter the knockouts and I like playing such matches," Bedia concluded.