FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez calls for improved character and mentality as they face Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai on Wednesday.

The Gaurs have experienced a significant dip in form recently. Marquez’s men have only managed to score in one of their last three games, conceding seven goals and dropping to the fifth position on the table. Fresh from three successive defeats, FC Goa will be desperate to secure all three points when they face Mumbai City FC away from home.

The Islanders currently sit second on the points table with 31 points from their 15 matches. In their journey, they suffered only two losses so far, against Kerala Blasters FC and Jamshedpur FC. Petr Kratky’s side is currently on a three-match winning streak and aims to extend it to four matches. Three points on Wednesday will propel the Islanders to the top of the table.

The head coach anticipates a tough challenge in the next match, acknowledging the strength of Mumbai City FC and deeming them a serious contender for the League Shield.

“I think that it is a normal situation for Mumbai City FC to be fighting for the top of the table. It's true that the team's style is changing in some aspects, but I believe the team is becoming better and more competitive. They are trying different things than they did in the beginning, and now they are finding it (the rhythm), which takes time. I consider them one of the clear candidates to be at the top at the end of the regular season,” stated Marquez in the pre-match press conference.

The Gaurs kicked off their ISL 2023-24 season in style, recording a 12-match unbeaten streak. However, since then, they have suffered three back-to-back defeats against Mohun Bagan Super Giant, NorthEast United FC, and Kerala Blasters FC.

Addressing this shift in FC Goa's fortunes, the Spaniard shared, “In football, you can win, draw or lose. And, even (there are situations) when you win, you don't deserve to win. Even when you lose, you don't deserve to lose. This is, for me, normal things in football. We can speak about injuries. We can speak about suspensions. We can speak about a lot of things. But finally, this is football.”

Mumbai City FC has witnessed a change at the coaching helm as the Islanders mutually parted ways with head coach Des Buckingham and appointed Petr Kratky at the wheel last December.

Marquez reflected on his relationship with both coaches, “I have not only great respect, great relationship with Des Buckingham and now (also with) the new coach. His first game was against FC Goa in Goa. I have less relationship, but a very correct relationship.”

He added, “Every coach, when you arrive in a new place, you try to not only change but to add some things that for you are important. And Petr (Kratky) is trying to do it.”

Marquez demands a strong display of character and mentality from his players as they seek a turnaround from their recent results. 

The 55-year-old stated, “When you are losing three matches in a row, we need to show character. We need to show mentalities more than speak about football in this. Of course, Mumbai City FC are a fantastic team, but my feeling at this moment is that we are playing against FC Goa more than against the opponent.”

FC Goa’s latest defeat came in shocking fashion against Kerala Blasters FC in Kochi, as they went from being 2-0 up in the first half to losing the match 2-4. Marquez believes the opposition fans played a crucial role in motivating the players for such a response in the second half.

“We played the other day in Kerala. That is a place where people love football. And I think that was key for them. I think that is an example for other places. The fans were key for the reaction of Kerala Blasters FC (in the second half),” he said.

Brison Fernandes has shown glimpses of his capabilities in the limited time provided to him. However, the 22-year-old has featured in just three matches, accumulating a total of 37 minutes on the pitch.

When quizzed about whether Fernandes deserves more minutes, Marquez said, “In my four years in India, he (Brison Fernandes) is the most talented player that I trained. But he doesn't play. The problem is another. Football is not only talent. He is a very nice guy. He's an incredible guy. My relationship with him is fantastic. But you need more things. You need consistency to play, football is not only with the ball, it's (also about how you play) without the ball.”