FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez is expecting a tough challenge from Mohun Bagan Super Giant when they take on the Kolkata giants at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.

The Gaurs have made a flying start to the season and are still unbeaten after the opening eight matches, securing six wins in the process. The Mariners, on the other hand, saw their unbeaten streak shattered by Mumbai City FC, suffering a 2-1 defeat at the Mumbai Football Arena on Wednesday.

However, it's the three red cards they received against the Islanders that will impact the Kolkata side more than the defeat itself. Defenders Hector Yuste, Asish Rai, and winger Liston Colaco will be absent from the game against FC Goa due to suspensions.

Despite this setback, Marquez is confident that the absence of these players won't significantly affect the team, as they have other players who can step up and make a difference on the day.

The Spaniard faced a similar situation last season against the Mariners when he was the head coach of Hyderabad FC, and he is determined not to fall into the same trap, staying focused on his team.

“The red cards don’t change anything. We have to focus on our team. Of course, you have to know which players are available (for the opposition) and prepare accordingly, but I had a very similar experience last season. They had a lot of players who were injured and suspended, but they still won 1-0,” Marquez stated in the pre-match press conference.

“We are facing one team whose 11 players who will start the game (for Mohun Bagan Super Gaint) will make them a very strong side. As usual, they will have their chances, but we will also have our chances to win on Saturday,” he added.

The two sides faced each other earlier in the Durand Cup, where Mohun Bagan Super Giant came out victorious by a narrow margin.

The tactician reiterates how dangerous the Kolkata side can be but feels it will be a different game altogether on Saturday.

 “They have very good players who can decide the game in one action. We played them in Durand (semis) and we did not deserve to lose. It was a good game for pre-season, but I feel it will be another game (on Saturday),” he said.

FC Goa will take on NorthEast United FC on December 29 before going into the break. The Spanish head coach has instilled a winning mentality within the squad and hopes to build on the same for the upcoming two matches.

“Even if we win, draw, nothing will be decided. Of course, if we win, it would be fantastic because we might go into the break in top position,” he explained.

“I am very optimistic with the things that I am seeing this season. I think we are a difficult team to beat. When you don’t play a good game, and you still win or draw, it shows you are competitive. My feeling is that we have a very good time,” said Marquez.

I want to make the next game my best: Sandesh Jhingan

Defender Sandesh Jhingan accompanied the Spaniard at the pre-match press conference. The centre-back has been in great form since joining the Gaurs in the summer and has formed a formidable partnership with Odei Onaindia in the backline.

However, he prefers to leave past performances behind and aims to perform at his best in the upcoming matches.

“I want to make the next game my best. That’s the approach I have. I don’t think whether I am having a great season (or not). My target has always been to be good for the next game I play, rather than look at what I’ve done in the previous games,” said Jhingan.

The Gaurs have maintained an impressive record of six clean sheets in the eight matches played so far, having not conceded in the last 500 minutes of the league. This achievement ranks as the second-highest in the history of the ISL.

“It’s a team effort. It’s not just about the clean sheets, it’s about getting results, day by day, game by game, and that’s our target. That’s what we focus on every day and every game,” stated the defender.

The 30-year-old has immense experience playing in the league and will be up against his former club. He believes he might have an idea about the opposition players, but it will still be a completely different game on Saturday.

“When you play against your former teams, you have an idea (of what to expect), but football is such a sport that every idea, every sequence, is different. You cannot rely on something (from the past). Of course, you learn from the times before, but this is a new game and every action is one of a kind,” commented Jhingan.