Hyderabad FC head coach Manolo Marquez doesn’t expect an easy match in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) as he feels any team has the ability to beat any other team on a given day in this competitive league.

Marquez led Hyderabad FC to Hero ISL glory last season as NorthEast United FC finished second from bottom but the Spaniard feels the Highlanders have players that can hurt anyone in the league.

The 54-year-old is happy to keep most of his players from last season and feels the continuity in his team could be beneficial for his side in Hero ISL 2022-23.

Hyderabad FC take on NorthEast United FC in Guwahati on Thursday and Marquez and defender Chinglensana Singh spoke to the media ahead of the match.

Here are the excerpts from the pre-match press conference.

You start this season as defending champions. Is that added pressure for your team given all the teams want to do well against you?

Marquez: I think that we are eleven teams. And if you watch the matches, practically any team can beat the other team. If you see all the matches so far they were very close. The only result that was a little bit clear was Kerala Blasters FC against East Bengal FC. That means in this competition every team can beat another team. We are happy that we won last season but this is a completely new season. Now we will what happens because the first games are always very important.

What are your thoughts on NorthEast United FC?

Marquez: I know that they started the pre-season late. they played with a B team in the Durand Cup. The other day against Bengaluru FC they didn't deserve to lose the game and it's not just about the disallowed goal but in general. NorthEast United FC played with a lot of order, with very dangerous players, and good foreigners. Like every season, NorthEast United FC have very good foreign players. Romain is a fantastic player and Jakobsen played in Spain a long time ago. They have very good players and they play a very good game.

Were you disappointed with your defensive performance against Mumbai City FC?

Marquez: Yes, with our defensive performance but not with the defenders. I was disappointed with the way we defended as a team. It's the first time we conceded three goals in the game in the last two years except for the day we played against Jamshedpur FC last season when we had 10-11 players down with Covid-19. I told the players that it was a good game for the spectators. But for us coaches as I told Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham, it's not good if you don't have control of the match. I felt during the game that Mumbai could score at any moment but it was the same for us. So these kinds of games without control are not our style.

After two seasons in bio-bubble, how does the game change with fans back in the stadium?

Marquez: These are two totally different sports. During the bio-bubble, we could hear the opposing coaches and sometimes that caused problematic situations. Now it's impossible (to hear the other coach). Not just in India but all over the world, the Covid-19 pandemic was a complete disaster and now we are very happy that we can play in front of a crowd. We watch how Kochi was, how Bengaluru was and how Kolkata was. We want to play in front of our fans in Hyderabad. We had a good experience in Pune too. Finally, you play football for the crowd and not for an empty stadium.

How important is it that you have continuity from last season? Hyderabad FC has a settled squad, so how important is that?

Marquez: I know that the agents with me, don't have business with me because we still have 13-14 players from my first season. In my opinion, if things work in a good way, you don't have to touch too much, you have to change some things, add more things but finally, I think that our team has good players but we are even stronger as a team.

Hyderabad FC have lost Asish Rai, Souvik Chakrabarti and Aniket Jadhav. Has it affected your team?

Marquez: There is no team in the world that has the same players for two seasons. But if ATK Mohun Bagan comes and pays to get Asish the player will go. It's normal. The career of a player is not very long and then he has to take advantage of this chance. I am very happy for him because he is a fantastic guy. We lost Souvik, Aniket and Pritam but this is normal. We are the team with more that have stayed.

You are going to play in front of fans here after two years and have played a match in front of the fans already in Hero ISL. So what are the changes that you are experiencing?

Chinglensana: I think playing in bio-bubble was a different feeling because there were no spectators. Just us and the coach. It was good for communication but without fans, football is not real. Now that the fans are here, it adds extra energy, extra motivation, to hear them cheer for us which always helps.