Hyderabad FC head coach Manolo Marquez feels NorthEast United FC have improved in all departments under new head coach Vincenzo Annese and is expecting a tough game against the Highlanders in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), at the GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium, in Hyderabad, on Thursday.

NorthEast United FC registered their first of the season in their last game, as they stunned ATK Mohun Bagan at home. These were NEUFC’s first points of the season after being winless for 10 games in the ongoing season. Marquez stated NEUFC deserved to get some points under former head coach Marco Balbul and believes that head coach Vincenzo Annese has improved the Guwahati-based side.

“NorthEast United FC did not deserve to have zero points with their former coach (Balbul),” he said at the pre-match press conference.

“They lost some games at the death, and in some games they were very close to drawing. They played good games, but after 10 games without points, they changed the head coach. They won against ATK Mohun Bagan, one of the strongest teams in the league. They have improved in all aspects - they defend better, they are dangerous in counter attacks and they have good players,” he added.

While NEUFC continued to stay rooted at the bottom of the Hero ISL standings, Hyderabad FC have witnessed contrasting fortunes with the defending champions well-placed at the second spot. However, the Highlanders will be looking to register a similar result after a morale-boosting victory against ATK Mohun Bagan. Marquez felt NorthEast United FC worked hard to get the win against the Mariners.

“The team is improving (under Annese). They are more compact now, they defend and attack better. They played against ATKMB, who had chances to score, but NorthEast United FC had more chances apart from the goal they scored. They will get more points before the end of the league. But we have to be focused on our game and we will try to win it. We wish them all the best, but we have to be focused throughout the game,” he explained.

“It’s another game for us and every game is very difficult. And now, because they won against ATKMB, it seems more difficult. But we knew that even if they arrived here (to Hyderabad FC) without points, it would be a difficult game for us. Both teams have options to win the game,” he added.

Hyderabad FC are currently two points off league leaders Mumbai City FC with 25 points after 11 games. HFC have been one of the most consistent teams this season and the defending champions have registered the same amount of wins as the Islanders. So far, eight different players have contributed goals for Hyderabad FC this season and Marquez is banking on all the players in his squad to play a part for them.

"Even if you lose two-three key players, we have a big squad to compete against all the teams. Javier (Siverio) is improving in every training session and he will be an important player. Rohit Danu is improving. The other day, Aaren D’Silva played 20-25 minutes. Nim (Dorjee) played for the first time (this season). We have good players in every position," he concluded.