FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez is optimistic about starting the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023–24 season with a win against newly promoted Punjab FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Monday.

This will be the first meeting between FC Goa and Punjab FC in the ISL. Punjab FC was outplayed by Mohun Bagan Super Giant by a 3-1 scoreline in their first game. They will be up against a strong FC Goa side that qualified for the Durand Cup 2023 semi-finals. The Gaurs will be looking to begin their campaign with a victory after their opener against Hyderabad FC was postponed.

Marquez, however, was wary about Punjab FC's gritty performance against Mohun Bagan Super Giant and admitted his side won't have it easy against the Shers.

"They played a good game against Mohun Bagan (Super Giant), but they won, because the individual qualities of the players decided the game," Marquez said in the pre-match press conference.

"There is one important thing from experience here in India, it is about continuity. When you have the same coach..they know what they have to do in every moment. They are a very dangerous opponent and it will be a tough game for us. But we are ready and we will have many options to win the game," he added.

After missing out on the playoffs for the last two seasons, FC Goa have bolstered their squad with some notable signings. Those include Sandesh Jhingan, Odei Onaindia, Carl McHugh, Udanta Singh, and many more. Looking at his squad, Marquez feels his team can be tough to beat if they improve in defensive transitions.

“Now we are in Goa, we analyse the squad that we have. I think that we have a squad that we can play good football in some moments, very nice for the people, but finally, the target is to win the games, and then if we are able to improve in some defensive aspects, especially when we lose the ball (it will be better for us), because we know that we will create chances. But when we lose the ball, if the team is ready to recover the ball or to know what they have to do in every moment, we will be a difficult team to beat,” Marquez said in the pre-match press conference.

Marquez expects a lot of spectators in the stadium for Monday’s game. His is aware of the immense support the fans have provided to the team, through thick and thin. He said: “I think that we need to give them (supporters) some reasons that they can cheer our team. And I think that we get it."

Marquez knows the importance of the first match of the season, as it sets the tone for the season. He said that there are plenty phases inside a game. Explaining his philosophy, the Spaniard said: "Football, for me, consists of five phases. One is attack; one is defence; one is the transition; defense (and) attack, when you recover the ball, what you have to do; defensive transition, what you have to do when you lose the ball; and set-pieces..Attack is a lot of things, build up, finishing, a lot of things, and defence is a lot individually and collectively. But the team which is very good in these actions have a lot of possibilities (to win).”

Australian midfielder Paulo Retre accompanied Marquez in the pre-match press conference. New challenges and experiences are on the horizon for him in his first year at ISL. He said that, in FC Goa, he saw the ambition of winning trophies, which enticed him to join the Gaurs.

He was quizzed about the reason behind top Australian players moving to India, and speaking in context, he replied: “Yeah, I think it's just an interesting experience, and it's completely different to Australia, so it obviously takes time to adjust. I think Jason's (Cummings) the same, but yeah, I think it's just more so once he won the A-League championship, I guess. It's one of those things where you want to test yourself, and I'm sure he is probably the same. So, yeah, it's great. It's good for the league, and you want as many good players coming, so yeah, it just only brings good things to the league.”