The game against Kerala Blasters FC is going to be the toughest: FC Goa's Carlos Pena

FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena believes that the game against Kerala Blasters FC is going to be the toughest of all they have played so far in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season.

Pena though exuded confidence that his team will go to Kerala to get all three points as Kerala Blasters FC hosts FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, in Kochi, on Sunday.

The two football loving coastal clubs have met 16 times so far in the Hero ISL and had only four drawn games between them. But the fact that all those four draws came in the last 5 games shows how the close the two teams have been recently.

Pena was accompanied by Edu Bedia in the pre match conference. The head coach also gave us the hint that he is not afraid to place an all-Indian defense and go all guns blazing.

Here are the excerpts from Pena's conference:

In the last match you were forced to use all-Indian defense, largely due to the injury of foreign players. In normal circumstances would you still prefer to use all indian defense at the back?

Pena: Of course. We have this in our mind. From the start, I think we have a very large squad, we have enough quality Indian players to play in the back four and that way we can give advantage to all the foreign players in forwards.

We think from different perspectives to face games or depending on the moments you have in some games. Yes, it is a possibility.(All Indian defense) In the last game, it worked because the work and commitment of all the players was really good. We could control the game with the possession of the ball. I am really happy for the team and for Glan (Martins) especially.

Could you please provide an update on Mohamed Fares Arnaout and Alvaro Vazquez?

Pena: We have some players who are trying to arrive at the game, but we have two more sessions till the game. I am not going to give any clue here. Let's see how they recover. If we can count on some of them, we'll make a decision on Sunday.

In the last match against Jamshedpur FC, are you happy with the team's performance, especially after scoring two goals and controlling the pace of the match?

Pena: I'm happy with the performance of the team. It was a game that we expected, but we have to improve a lot of things. I think we had some minutes in both halves, we didn't control and they had some chances, but it is a part of the process. The game against Jamshedpur FC was that way. We have a new game against Kerala Blasters FC on Sunday. It's a different environment against a different team. We will try to adapt and play the same style that we're trying to do. We're going to go for the three points again.

In the last four matches against Kerala Blasters FC, three draws are there. What do you expect from the next game?

Pena: As I always say, maybe I'm repetitive, it's going to be tough for them and also for us. We're going to play in a very good environment and very good stadium against a team who are very aggressive with a lot of intensity. But, we're going there to play full of confidence. We are absolutely confident in ourselves, but knowing it's not going to be easy. If we feel now that everything is going to be easy, we're going to make a mistake. The game on Sunday is going to be the toughest of all we have played till now. We're going to face it that way.

Next match against Kerala Blasters FC is going to be the 100th Match for Seriton Fernandes (If you select him) in Hero ISL. You have played with him as a player and now you have him as the first choice right back, Can you share some words on how important that person has been?

Pena: A lot of credit to Seriton Fernandes. He is a Goan guy. He's living his dream, playing for FC Goa. It's not easy to play 100 games, he has played with all the coaches since he has been here, so credit to him. I encourage him to keep on working, to keep on enjoying because I think Seriton (Fernandes) has the level to play even for the national team. So, I am very happy with him, very happy with his commitment, the performances he has shown till now. Keep on working the same way to do 100 more games.

You have the highest amount of possession of all teams in the Hero ISL and Kerala Blasters FC ranks 3rd in the list and both teams like to play with the ball so what would be your approach as two teams have similar styles of play?

Pena: I think Kerala Blasters FC and FC Goa play in a similar style. Maybe the number of possessions can be different, but I think they are a very good team in transitions, they always try to put balls in the opposition half, they try to press a lot, I think a little different to FC Goa. But, for me, possession is not the most important thing. For me, it's that you can control the game in different ways. Sometimes possession can help you win games, sometimes it can punish you. I think we're managing this aspect of the game very well till now. Sometimes we have been much better at possession than other teams and sometimes not. We will try to adapt the style to any game we play. Of course we are always going for the win in all the games.

The team has got a good start. A lot of people have said that you have an advantage as you know the system. So after these four games, How big of an advantage is it for you to know about the culture and be able to connect with the players?

Pena: Yes, We had a good start in these four games  but nothing was done.  We are still in the starting. We are happy of course, but we have a long way to go and I like this confidence and yes, not only because of these four games. I knew that it was an advantage for me to know the environment, to know how the players feel, how the players can perform here, know the facilities, know the people in the club. I knew that before coming here and luckily the results are going as we expected. Now, trying to keep working, be humble, as we are doing until now.

Here are the excerpts from Edu Bedia's conference :

This is the best start FC Goa has ever had since 2017-18, how important is this start especially after the last season where we lost the first three matches and we weren't fully recovered from that?

Bedia: It's always important to win, but the first games are very important because of the feeling of the team, new players, new staff. It is important to take confidence in the first few games.

What is the difference between this team and the teams(previous FC Goa teams) you have played before?

Bedia: In my opinion, I am here for six seasons, this is the most competitive team. This is the only difference between this team and the previous ones. We want to play the same style of football.This is an edge.

Did you see yourself staying here for six years, when you first came to India?

Bedia: I came here for just two years, but now it's the sixth season. I am very happy. It was the right decision at this moment I am very happy.

Three of your eleven goals have come against Kerala Blasters FC. It is also the highest you scored against any other team. Tell us about the challenges in playing against Kerala blasters in Kochi?

Bedia: Always difficult to play in their stadium with the fans. I think, along with Fatorda, Kochi is the best stadium in the league.

What is your opinion on Indian football for the past six seasons?

Bedia: I spoke about this many times before. Football in India has improved a lot in these 6 years. When I came to India, football was fast and competitive but now the football is more tactical and it is difficult to take chances now and teams are very close and this is important for Indian Football.

You have been in India for the past six years. Which is your best season so far?

Bedia: I hope this (is going to be the best). Maybe in the two years back, the season where we played the AFC champions league.

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