Hyderabad FC head coach Manolo Marquez stated that his team needs to be ambitious in their pursuit for the League Winners' Shield ahead of their meeting against East Bengal FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, on Friday.

Hyderabad FC would look to continue their six-match unbeaten run as three points against East Bengal FC would inch them four points closer to the league leaders, Mumbai City FC.

In the reverse fixture, Hyderabad FC won 2-0 at their home with the help of goals from Mohammad Yasir and Javier Siverio. Marquez’s men would be looking to do the double over the Red and Gold Brigade and inflict a the 10th defeat of the season on East Bengal FC.

Marquez shed light on the team’s preparations and how the team is not taking East Bengal FC lightly.

“The preparations are normal, the players trained good, very good in some moments. We are preparing for the game knowing that are going to face another team with a different playing style. It’s true that they (East Bengal FC) have got better results playing away as compared to playing at home. (They have) a good coach and good offensive players. Again, it’s going to be a difficult game," Marquez said in the official pre-match press conference.

Hyderabad FC are second on the Hero ISL points table with Marquez’s men chasing Mumbai City FC for the League Shield. Marquez explained that the team would continue to pursue the League Shield even though the last four out of six league matches are against teams from the top six in the points table.

“We have to fight to arrive in the second position in the points table or even we can arrive to win the Shield. We have to be ambitious. We know that we have six games and four of them are against ATK Mohun Bagan, Kerala Blasters FC, Odisha FC and Mumbai City FC but maybe one of these games is going to be easier than East Bengal FC or Jamshedpur FC. You can beat every team but if you are not in a good moment you can lose. I repeat we are not in a good moment but we are difficult to beat and we have a clear example that in the last game we didn’t play good but we managed to win one point.” he added.

Hyderabad FC have the best defence in the league with Manuel Marquez’s men conceding the fewest goals (9) in the Hero ISL so far. It’s going to be an interesting affair to see the water-tight defence of Hyderabad FC will go against the top scorer of the league, Cleiton Silva, who has scored nine goals in 13 matches for the Red and Gold Brigade. Manolo talked about the quality Cleiton Silva possesses and how East Bengal FC have a lot of quality players in their team.

“We know that these kinds of players are very clever. He’s (Cleiton Silva) the kind of player who is not a typical centre forward, he arrives in the box when you don’t expect, he goes in the wings and scores, like a good goal against Odisha FC. He’s a player who is very good in set-pieces, if you remember the last-minute goal he scored against BFC, he’s a player who is very difficult to control. Of course, it’s not only about Cleiton, both wingers have different styles but are very dangerous, VP (Suhair) and Naorem Singh. And they have other good players, Alex Lima has a very good left good, they have good players in the midfield and their centre-back pairing is good as well. They have good players and they can beat anyone. It’s true that practically they don’t have options to qualify for the playoffs but East Bengal FC is one of the biggest teams in India and they have to play for their fans.” Marquez explained.

The defending champions are having another strong season in the Hero ISL with Marquez’s side sitting in the second spot in Hero ISL points table with 10 victories, two draws and two losses in 14 matches. Hyderabad FC have scored the second-most goals (28) in the league so far.  Marquez was impressed with the way his team have been grinding out results.

“One strong point is when you are a team that doesn’t play good games but still doesn’t loses means yeou are a good team. If you play very bad in every game then it means you are not a good team but that is not the case. The last six games are going to be a challenge for every team. Every team will fight till the very end to qualify for the playoffs. The other teams like Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC, they still have possibilities to qualify (for the playoffs) and let’s see FC Goa and Odisha FC are going to (find it) difficult too.” Marquez said.

Marquez was accompanied by defender Reagan Singh, in the official pre-match conference. The 31-year-old defender has four appearances in the season so far and he talked about the team’s preparations against East Bengal FC.

“Everyone is giving their best in the season so our game against East Bengal FC is going to be difficult. They are doing better in the second half of the league so we have to be more focused and those who are playing, they have to be more concentrated and try to win,’’ he added.

Singh came on as a substitute in the last league fixture against Chennaiyin FC with the team chasing an equaliser. He spoke about how the team didn't give up and tried hard to register three points. 

“It was very difficult when I entered the pitch but everyone was giving their best and we still had time to equalise and it was possible to win also. We had to work hard and believe in ourselves and then finally we got the goal.” he concluded.