Odisha FC head coach Josep Gombau expressed how the team’s strong mentality and the fighting spirit has helped the Kalinga Warriors win matches this season in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). Gombau’s men sit in the third position on the league table and will hope for a third consecutive third victory as they gear up to take on NorthEast United FC in the latest fixture Hero ISL fixture.

Gombau revealed how a fine mixture of Indian players and overseas players has created a strong belief and a good environment in the dressing room. He further heaped praise for NorthEast United FC and added how the Highlanders faced two good sides in ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC and had the opportunity to turn the game in their favour during certain moments. 

Gombau, who was accompanied by the Spanish midfielder Saul Crespo in the pre-match press conference, spoke about treating each game with respect and their goal of reaching the final, NorthEast United FC’s potential, and a good overall environment within the club.

Here are the excerpts from Gombau’s conference:

The team is in good form with two back-to-back victories and NorthEast United FC is at the bottom of the league table. How are you going to approach this match?

We approach this game like any other game in the league. We have a lot of respect for NorthEast United FC. It's a team who is playing quite well, in the last two matches, they faced two good sides in ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC, and in certain moments they had the game close to them.

They could have come away with a draw till the last moment, this is something that we have in our minds. Every single game is difficult and as I said, I have a lot of respect for them. We are working very hard, and the players are working hard and preparing for the match, we expect a tough match and we go with the same mentality. We need to work hard for the win.

We have seen a lot of games where Odisha FC has made comebacks, so how does that affect the mentality of the players and as a confidence booster for them?

As a team, we always want to start the game and win it but sometimes it's not possible, the league is equal and I think every single opponent is equal. We are winning the matches because we have a strong mentality. We fight until the end and we come back in the game because of the mentality of fighting until the end, sometimes it doesn't happen but that's football and you cannot win every game, but what I can assure you is that we will work hard till the final whistle.

Nandhakumar Sekar has been in fine form as he has scored three goals in the last four matches and he's been a key performer. How do you rate his performances so far?

Nandha is a good player, he is a player who's working well. The way we play our football, in spaces that allow the wingers to play, that allows him to show his true potential. He's in good form because the rest of the team is working very well and when the team is doing well you can have more kind of situations where the strikers and the wingers can have more chances to score. I'm happy with him and Jerry (Mawihmingthanga) because as a winger, it's not that they are just working with the ball, they are working without the ball and they are helping out in defense and then the high pressing that we are doing. I think the team is doing well.

Your thoughts on Amrinder (Singh) being the wall in front of the goal and his performances so far?

It's very important for us to have a goalkeeper of his quality. He provides a lot of security to the defence line and I'm sure that it's helping a lot. His experience, everybody respects him and he is the kind of player who has shown his level from the first day. Our aim is to go game by game and we'll see where we are at the end. We want to put over a step in this league and win the final and try to go ahead.

We have seen a lot of key players coming in this season in terms of Narender (Gahlot), Micheal Soosairaj, and Amrinder (Singh). A lot of key players the club have signed, what do you think their impact has been on the overall squad, playing in the Durand Cup and the Hero ISL league so far?

We have a strong team and it’s something we told our players on the first day that we want to win. I don’t want any excuses, we need to work very hard and we want to win matches. We can’t have any excuse, we have a good squad and we know the way to do it. We made good additions with the Indian players and the overseas players as well like Saul (Crespo), Carlos (Delgado), Victor (Rodriguez), Diego (Mauricio), and Pedro Martin, all of them are fantastic.

It’s also not what they just bring on the pitch but in the dressing room as well. It’s visible on the pitch as well, they score the last goal and celebrate together because the environment of the team is good, it’s nice. We are working together and there are no egos, we have a good connection between the players and the coaching staff. All is going well and we need to keep it the same way.

We have seen glimpses of Victor (Rodriguez). When do we get to see him play a good half or full 90 minutes?

Victor is a player who has a lot of qualities. He’s a player who came to India with one year gap in his calendar because of an injury. He came back and he started the pre-season with us, he was very good and just a week or two days before the start of the Durand Cup, he got injured and that stopped his progression. Now he’s fully fit but also, it’s true that at this moment, everyone is learning.

Sometimes the game is not set for the player who’s coming back from an injury. Two weeks ago against East Bengal FC, he was the key player for us. In the last game, he was hundred percent fit, but at this moment I feel it wasn’t the moment to bring the player in, the back three are playing really well at this moment and the game was more to defend than to attack as every game is different. I hope that I can bring him slowly into the team and when he’s fully fit, I can start him in the playing eleven.

Any injury updates for the match?

It’s the same, (Michael) Soosairaj and Shubham (Sarangi) are recovering from long-term injuries, and the rest of the team is fit. We are ready to play on Saturday.

Here are the excerpts from Crespo’s conference:

How has been the experience for you in the Hero ISL, this being your first stint outside of Spain?

I think it’s a very good and equal league. Every team has similar players and the team is very good.

How has been the experience working under Josep Gombau? How has the experience been with the Indian players, how is it going with them?

He is a very good coach and he helped me a lot because last season was not a good one for me. I need playing time and confidence. The coach is very good to me. The Indian players are good, and the local players are good people. Communication is hard but things are going well.