FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez, is hopeful about his team's chances of clinching the second spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) standings ahead of their upcoming clash against Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday.

With this being the final league game for both teams, Chennaiyin FC has already secured the sixth position in the table, while FC Goa still has a shot at finishing in the top two. To achieve this, they must defeat Chennaiyin FC and rely on Mohun Bagan Super Giant losing against league leaders Mumbai City FC. 

If these results align, both teams would finish the season level on points, with FC Goa advancing to the semi-finals due to a superior head-to-head record against the Mariners. Marquez is fully aware of this scenario and is urging his team to secure all three points in their upcoming match.

“We want to, and we need to win. Imagine that tomorrow (on Sunday) we don't win and Mumbai (City FC) win in Kolkata (against Mohun Bagan SG), then I think we would regret about this situation,” Marquez said at the pre-match press conference.

With their playoff berth already sealed and just one game remaining, Chennaiyin FC may opt to rest key players ahead of their impending one-legged playoff clash against the team finishing second. However, Marquez reiterated the significance of securing all three points to enhance their chances of finishing second, particularly if the outcome of the League Shield decider between the Mariners and Islanders falls in their favour.

“For Chennaiyin (FC), the important game is the next game (the one-legged knockout clash). But for us, the important game is tomorrow. Because we still have a chance (to finish second). It doesn’t depend on our team but again, we need to win the game,” Marquez said.

Marquez is set to face Owen Coyle, with both coaches being among the most successful in the ISL. Their history reflects a balanced rivalry, having encountered each other five times in the past. Out of these meetings, each has secured one victory, while three matches concluded in draws. Marquez has expressed his respect for Coyle and acknowledges the threats posed by Chennaiyin FC, particularly considering their recent results.

“I don't need to (say anything about Coyle). The numbers speak for himself. He arrived in India a long time ago in the middle of the season when Chennaiyin FC was close to the bottom of the table and he arrived to the final. He is a coach with a lot of experience. He was a great player, a great striker.  He is one coach that demands a lot from his players during 90-95 minutes,” he expressed. 

“The team is incredible. In this case, the mentality of the coach was clear in the games. Not only because they turn(ed around their situation to reach the playoffs). The last three games, they won against Odisha FC but lost at home to Hyderabad FC. Maybe another team, after this game, would be finished. They turned (around the result) in Kolkata (against Mohun Bagan SG), at home against Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC. They deserved to be in the playoffs, and these kinds of teams that arrive in these kinds of mental situations are very dangerous. It will be very difficult (game) for us, but for them also,” he added. 

We’re looking forward to winning the ISL Cup: Muhammed Nemil

Midfielder Muhammed Nemil accompanied Marquez in the pre-match press conference. The attacking midfielder has faced challenges in securing a spot in the starting eleven, having played only six matches this season and a total of 39 minutes on the pitch.

Nemil has acknowledged his limited involvement on the field but remains optimistic about making the most of any opportunity he receives.

“I haven’t been playing a lot of games but I’m still really working hard on the pitch. I'm just waiting for my chance. Right now, I'm not thinking about myself individually but about the team. We really wanted to win the Shield but it's not possible now. We’re looking forward to winning the ISL Cup,” the Kerala-born midfielder said in the pre-match press conference.

Since joining FC Goa in 2020, Nemil, primarily an attacking midfielder, has often found himself deployed on the wings this season. The presence of several experienced players in the team occupying the attacking midfield position has led to Nemil slipping down the pecking order.

When asked about the same, he said: “That’s the reason why the coach has been playing me as a left or right winger. I’m totally okay with it. I’m happy that I’m getting to play on the field, that’s all.”