FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez expressed optimism as they prepare to face Mumbai City FC in search of a second leg comeback in the second semi-final of the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai on Monday.

The Gaurs were stunned by the Islanders in the first leg when in the dying minutes of the match, Mumbai City FC scored three goals to overturn FC Goa’s 2-0 lead. 

Taking the pitch in Mumbai, Marquez’s men will be desperate to make up for their complacency in their previous encounter and secure a win to ensure their berth in the final of the ISL 2023-24 season.

Midfielder Brandon Fernandes was substituted off in the 85th minute of the match, having created three goalscoring chances and bagging himself a goal, after which, Mumbai City FC turned things around by scoring three goals within six minutes. 

The head coach doesn’t regret his decisions from that day and believes that if someone questions his substitutions, then they may not be that much involved with the game.

We played a very good game. Everyone that speaks about the substitutions is people that are not involved in football, and they don't have no idea about football,” stated Marquez in the post-match press conference.

Elucidating on the situation inside the dressing room, the Spaniard added, “The training session was in the morning. The mood was still bad. A lot of players couldn't sleep. Even the staff, obviously. Normal situation. But when we are now, two days later, three days later, when the game is on Monday, we will be ready. We will be ready to play. And I know that we will try to win, to turn the situation around and we show that we can do it.”

With a shocking comparison, Marquez tried to show how his players need to develop character.

“I am from Barcelona and I love Carles Puyol, why? Carles Puyol, with the ball, was 1000 times worse than Brandon. Yes. But, when his team conceded one goal, this is the moment that you need to show leadership (like Puyol did),” he said.

He continued, “We need to improve in this aspect because character and mentality is very, very important.”

Confiding in the process by which FC Goa are trying to overcome their loss in the first leg while also preparing for a comeback in the second league, Marquez commented, “We will be very confident when we arrive on Monday.”

FC Goa will miss Mohammad Yasir in the second leg owing to an unfortunate injury in the first leg. The 26-year-old has assisted five goals so far this season while also scoring goals on three occasions.

The 55-year-old does think Yasir has been important for the Gaurs but is ready to put his faith in someone else for their encounter against Mumbai City FC. 

He said, “He is a very good player. I think he arrived in the middle of the season. Was not very good in the beginning, but now has a lot of assists and two (three) goals and I don't know how many, four or five assists. I know the quality of Yasir from a long time ago. But (for the second league) we will play another player.”

Marquez shared an optimistic outlook towards the second leg game.

“There is a second leg and we have to fight and try to qualify because we know that we can do it, but we know that the opponent is a strong opponent,” he opined.

We have to go to Mumbai and give everything: Brandon Fernandes 

Fernandes accompanied the head coach to the press conference. 

The captain has contributed to seven goals so far this season, comprising three goals and four assists. Alongside Noah Sadaoui, Fernandes has been a leader in the middle for the Gaurs throughout this season. 

Disappointed with their first leg loss, he stated, “Well, I think, we played a really good game in the entire game. We played very well. We can lose one game, but the way we lost the game hurts a lot. We are very disappointed. I think, you know, the good thing about this is that we have another chance.”

“We have to go there and give everything, fight for every ball, every minute. And let's see what happens in Mumbai,” he added.

The local from Goa has been a part of the club since 2017, bagging himself eleven goals so far donning the FC Goa jersey. 

Giving insights into how he feels about his journey since signing for the Gaurs, Fernandes shared, “It has been an incredible journey for me, playing for this club."

"A huge honour for me, representing my home team and being the captain, I'm very privileged. For me, it is all about playing for this club, giving everything for this club, trying to do what I can do the best.  And, yeah, one thing I would really like to add to it is this ISL Cup trophy. I hope that we can turn this around in Mumbai and get into the finals.”