FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez expects the second half of the Indian Super League (ISL) to be more difficult than the first as he makes an emotional return to Hyderabad to face his former team on Thursday. 

The Gaurs head coach spent three seasons at Hyderabad FC where helped the team win the ISL Cup in 2021-22 before joining FC Goa ahead of the 2023-24 season. 

The two teams though have had contrasting fortunes in the league so far with FC Goa being the only team not to lose a match while Hyderabad FC are yet to secure a win this season. 

However, the Spaniard feels his team won’t take their opponents lightly.

“It won't be an easy game. The main target is to get three points against Hyderabad FC,” he said. 

“Hyderabad FC without their foreign players were winning against Mohun Bagan Super Giant with all the young players in the Kalinga Super Cup. In the first game, they lost 3-2 against East Bengal FC. I think their team will be competitive,” he added.

The Yellow and Blacks have lost a lot of players in the January transfer window and will be banking on their youngsters against the Gaurs but Marquez feels the situation can make them dangerous.

“It is true that if they don't get results in the first two games, they can get bogged down but they will try to play a very good game in the first match,” he said. 

FC Goa too will be without Sandesh Jhingan who the team confirmed suffered a serious injury with the Indian national team and they are still trying to find out the exact extent of the injury.

“We know it can be a bad injury. We are waiting for another opinion. The feeling is that it will be a long injury,” he said.

The Gaurs have signed Nim Dorjee from Hyderabad FC to bolster their defence and have also acquired Borja Herrera from East Bengal FC to replace Victor Rodrigues. Herrera has worked with Marquez at Hyderabad FC and is comfortable working with the head coach. 

“Technically, Borja is a very good player. He has a very good left foot. He can play in a lot of positions, he has got a great deliver on set-pieces and is a very complete player,” he said. 

“He had a great season with Hyderabad FC last season. He scored goals, he gave assists too. He isn't the same kind of play as Victor (Rodrigues) but he is different. For me, it was safer for me to sign a player that I know especially in the middle of the season,” he added. 

FC Goa are in a very strong position in the league with 24 points from 10 matches but Marquez feels tougher tests lie ahead of them.

“The second half of the season is always more difficult in all leagues and all countries,” he said. 

“The added competitiveness will be good for us. There are a lot of games between the top five. It will be a good second half,” he concluded.

Mohammed Yasir who recently joined the Gaurs from the Yellow and Blacks accompanied the coach in the pre-match press conference and expressed his delight at rejoining the team he had left to join Hyderabad FC.

“It's a good feeling for me to come back,” he said. 

“I worked three years with the coach and I wanted to be with him. I got an opportunity to play with him so (I joined). FC Goa have been really good this season and so I wanted to be here,” he added.