FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena expects an aggressive East Bengal FC to face his team, and has warned his players that the hosts will be a tough nut to crack, as his side kickstarts their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season against the Red and Gold Brigade at the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata, on Wednesday.

The Stephen Constantine-coached side went down to Kerala Blasters FC in the opening game of the season. Pena believes it will be a challenging game for both sides, as the hosts will be playing in front of their fans for the first time. Moreover, the Spaniard will face a new-look Goa side which he claims will bring forth a strong personality instilled with competitiveness on the pitch.

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Pena along with Iker Guarrotxena, who is certain to play a key figure under the head coach’s plans, attended the official pre-match press conference ahead of their season opener against East Bengal FC.

Here are the excerpts from Pena’s press conference:

What’s the mood in the camp ahead of the game against East Bengal FC?

We’re really excited. We’re starting the season and the first game is always special, and we have done a lot of work in the pre-season just like the other teams. We’re looking forward to playing against East Bengal FC.

East Bengal FC were stunned by Kerala Blasters FC in their first game. So, do you expect a hard team on Wednesday? What are your plans to tackle them?

Yes, we are going to face a team that will be hard to beat because they lost their first game against Kerala Blasters FC and they will be playing in front of their fans this time, and I expect an aggressive team. We need to be on similar levels as them and we need to play with a strong personality. We are going on offence in the first minute and it is going to be a tough game for both teams.

Are there any injury concerns in the camp? Is everyone available for the match?

No (injury concerns), everyone is available for the first game. Luckily, I can count on all my players, and everybody is ready.

You’re going to play in Kolkata in what will be East Bengal’s first game in front of their home crowd. How crucial will the presence of fans be for the coming game?

It’s going to be a great challenge to play in front of a fully packed stadium, we’re trying to enjoy it, and it will be special for us. We would’ve loved to begin our campaign in front of our home fans, but the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata is also a good venue to kick-start things.   

This is a new beginning for your team and you have a fresh and young squad at the disposal. So, what kind of a challenge do you think you’ll face at FC Goa in the initial phases of the season?

It is true that we have a very young squad - one of the youngest in the league, but this is not a problem, it is a challenge. From what I’ve seen of the boys during the pre-season, I can say that this FC Goa (team) has a strong personality and are competitive. We are ready to start the season.

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FC Goa play an attacking style of football so, will we see a more attacking-based team against East Bengal FC?

Football is about balance and you need to be good in attacking as well as defending. I can say that FC Goa is going to be a great team going into each match, and we’ll try to play attacking style and score goals but for that we need to have a good defence too, which is vital in football.  

Here are the excerpts from Iker’s press conference:

You are starting a new adventure with FC Goa. What are your thoughts about the club and the league here?

Iker: It is exciting for sure. When I came here, it was to win something. I think everything starts from the first game on Wednesday, so I’m only thinking about the first game because you have to win the opening game otherwise everything will become more difficult. Once we win the first, we will go to the second and so on.

It’s a long wait for the fans for the first FC Goa home game and you people waited the most for your first game. So how have you trained knowing you had to wait a few weeks for the first home game?

Iker: Yeah, it’s true; we also have to wait a few weeks before we play our first home game, but it is also beautiful to play in front of the crowd and people who are excited to see this young team. We have followed a certain style of play during training and we’ll stick to it during our matches as well. It obviously will not be as beautiful as it is at home but it will nonetheless be beautiful.

What do you make of your team after having seen the first four matches?

Iker: It’s true that few games were similar but we’ll try to make our own style, we’ll try to play with personality. We had a good pre-season and we’ll implement a certain style of play in the training as well as in matches. We will stick to what the coach is demanding of us and take each opponent game by game. I think we’re ready to play our first game.