FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez anticipates a challenging encounter as they gear up to face Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.

Both teams are currently in excellent form, with FC Goa enjoying an 11-game unbeaten streak, having conceded only five goals so far. Odisha FC, on the other hand, remain unbeaten in their last seven home matches and currently lead the ISL table with 30 points from 14 matches, three ahead of FC Goa, who are second in the table with 27 points.

FC Goa aim to replicate their performance from the reverse fixture, where they secured a 3-2 victory over the Kalinga Warriors, courtesy of a late winner from Jay Gupta.

Marquez acknowledges the formidable form of the opposition, led by coach Sergio Lobera, and emphasizes the need for FC Goa to be at their best to overcome Odisha FC in the upcoming game.

"I think we are facing a team which is in a very good momentum. Their (Odisha FC's) last defeat in two consecutive ones a long time ago. They are unbeaten in a lot of games in all the competitions. They have a very good team and coach. They have a very good strength and conditioning coach too. I think that they are in a very good moment and it will be a tough game for us, but it will be a tough game for them too," Marquez said in the pre-match press conference.

"If you remember in ISL they play better in the first half and the opposite in the second half. In the Kalinga Super Cup, we played very well in the first half, better than Odisha FC but they killed the game with three actions. This is the most dangerous quality of Odisha FC," he added.

"They are a team that can manage all situations, they are good in attack but they are also good in counterattack, and they are good in set pieces. It's a very dangerous team and we need to play a very good game if we want to beat them," the Spaniard continued.

FC Goa are presently grappling with a challenge related to the balance needed in central defence due to the absence of Sandesh Jhingan. Marquez is considering several options, including Narayan Das, who partnered with Odei Onaindia against Hyderabad FC.

He could give Nim Dorjee, who moved to the Gaurs from Hyderabad FC in the winter transfer window, his first start in FC Goa colours.

"I have doubts still about who will play, if I knew I could tell, I wouldn't have any problems telling. The team is very competitive, Narayan (Das) was okay in the games he played, Nim Dorjee, I know him, is a very good defender. Sandesh (Jhingan) is indeed an important absence in the team, even because of the character he gives to the team but we have options as you say, we have Nim, Narayan, Jay (Gupta), and Carl (McHugh). We have a lot of players," Marquez commented.

Despite the long-term injury to Jhingan, the Spaniard is fortunate to have various options to choose from for the starting eleven. He also spoke highly of the young midfielder Ayush Dev Chhetri.

"We have a lot of players also in the midfield,  and we want players who want to arrive at the top level,  Ayush (Dev Chhetri) is a clear example of a player who wants to arrive at the top level. He is always training in a very high quality. As I have said before, I like to train young players and most of them like to train the same way and arrive at the top level," he said.

"We have a lot of players, and that's a nice problem to have—it's a good situation for a coach. However, I told them that everyone has to know their roles in every single game," Marquez added.

Midfielder Ayush Dev Chhetri accompanied the head coach to the pre-match press conference. The 20-year-old earned his first ISL start this season in the last game against Hyderabad FC. During the conference, Chhetri shared insights into the valuable lessons he has gained from both the coach and the senior players.

"I learned a lot from the coach in every training session, and I improved a lot from last season," he said.

"There are very good senior players in the team this year, and I learn a lot from them in every training session," Chhetri added.