FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena believes his team will have their chances when they face Mumbai City FC in Matchweek 19 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday.

Positioned fifth in the league table with 27 points, the Gaurs are battling for a berth in the playoffs alongside ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC, and Odisha FC. A win against the Islanders would be a massive stride for the side in their playoffs chase. Pena is aware of the significance this fixture holds and believes that his side has the ability to have a crack at the Mumbai side.

“We know the opponent we are facing on Saturday and it’s a very important game for us. We are in a tight battle for reaching our objective for this season and as I always say, we don’t think too much about our opponent, we know our threats and strengths. We are going to face the game with confidence knowing that we have a tough game in front of us but also for them, but we’ll have 100% confidence in trying to get the three points,” Pena stated in the official pre-match press conference.

The Gaurs ended up on the losing side in a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Mumbai City FC in the reverse fixture in Mumbai. While the scenario has changed for FC Goa, league leaders Mumbai City FC are unbeaten and would like to go all the way in their hunt for the League Winners’ Shield. Pena highlighted how the reverse fixture was a different game whilst backing his team to be able to come out on top against the unstoppable Mumbai side.

“Saturday is going to be a different history for us and for them. I feel in Mumbai, we had a good first half. In the start of the second half, we committed some mistakes that broke the game. And the result finally, was fair, because they were better than us. Saturday is going to be a different history because we are playing for a big objective. They have their issues and are coming with full power. In the moment that we are in right now, it is going to be a different history. They are an incredibly good team but we know that we are going to have our chances,” he said.  

Pena’s men dropped four crucial points in their last two away matches against Odisha FC and NorthEast United FC respectively. While it might cost a seat in the playoffs, Pena called for his players to focus on the upcoming games and learn from their mistakes of the previous games.

“We don't have time to think too much into the past. Of course, we could win again. Against Odisha FC, I felt that the team competed really well. Against NorthEast United FC also, we had our chances to win. But we can't waste time on thinking about what we lost in the past. Now it's time to focus on Saturday and that is our next objective. We have three games now to get the objectives, we’ll try to learn from the past and focus 100% on the upcoming game,” he added.

Pena was accompanied by goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh in the pre-match press conference. The custodian has been one of the key players under Pena’s regime, featuring in 16 of the 17 games for his side.

Dheeraj, who has been with the club for the last three years, believes there has been a strong turnaround in the mentality of the team after the arrival of head coach Pena. He revealed that the Spaniard has made massive strides in bringing the club towards the right direction.

“I strongly feel we are in the process of building a very good team, the team which we were playing in last season and the team in which we are playing this season is completely different (one) with a new coach. So, we can expect every game to win in spite of the (level of the) game. But the positive thing is that the boys are really fighting for it, for every single minute, and we still have time,” he said.

“We already left what is behind so we have three games ahead of us, which we need to prove ourselves and do well to qualify for the playoffs. We still have a maximum chance to qualify for the playoffs. So the next focus is Mumbai, if we do our things right, definitely we’ll have a chance to qualify for the playoffs,” he added.

The 22-year-old has made 32 saves, kept four clean sheets, and has conceded 19 goals this season, four of which came against the reverse fixture against Mumbai City FC. On being questioned about whether the result of the reverse fixture will come back and haunt him in the upcoming game, Dheeraj remained confident about himself and his team giving their best and commented that the team will head on with a fresh mentality in the game.

“We played Mumbai City FC two months ago. It’s a new day for us on Saturday. It's because we go with a fresh mind, with a proper game plan. And if we do things right, we'll definitely get the results. As a team, as a player, we want to win every game, the results are unpredictable, we can’t predict it by sitting on the chair. But for sure if we do our best, go according to our plan, we could do anything, we could get the points and have a crack at the playoffs,” he concluded.