FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez believes his side will have their chances to win the game despite the opposition’s strong defensive record as they host Jamshedpur FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Monday.

FC Goa are among the three unbeaten sides in the league so far and sit on the second spot in the standings. They will be looking to continue their unbeaten streak as they return to their home, but will face a stiff challenge from Jamshedpur FC, who have looked very impressive so far.

Jamshedpur FC have managed to win only one of their seven games thus far but have been competitive in all their fixtures they have played in. Despite sitting in the bottom half of the table, they have let in just six goals, the third joint-best tally in the league this season.

Marquez was aware of Jamshedpur FC’s strong defensive record and how they difficult they have made it for opponents to score so far, but was optimistic about winning on Monday.

“Right now, we’re focused on Jamshedpur FC alone. If you look at their numbers, the statistics, they haven’t scored too many goals, they haven’t conceded too many too. Except in the last game that was 3-2, the other games, it was 1-0, 0-0.. They conceded three goals in their most recent match, but otherwise, it’s never been more than once,” Marquez said at the pre-match press conference.

“They are a difficult team because tactically they are very good. It’s difficult to enter the defence of this team. But we’ll have 95-100 minutes to try and win this game,” he added.

FC Goa have played five games so far and won four of them. They are currently three points behind table toppers Kerala Blasters FC and also have two games in hand. Marquez couldnt have wished for a better start to the season, but believes there is still a long way to go.

“It’s very early (to say where we will finish the table), but it’s better to have 30 points than 3, 5, 7 or 12. It’s good to have started with four wins and one draw, but still we’ll have to play a total of 22 games in the regular season. It’s still early,” he said.

“Even the table is not true, some teams have played only four games and we have played five so far, while some others have completed seven matches.”

FC Goa began their campaign with a nervy win against Punjab FC before recording comeback wins against Odisha FC at home and against East Bengal FC in Kolkata. They then picked up a point against Bengaluru FC before beating Chennaiyin FC convincingly, both being trips on the road. FC Goa have kept three clean sheets so far, more than any other team while conceding just three goals, fewer than any other team. 

When asked about the areas his side could improve, Marquez felt his team could improve further but was pleased with the progress they have made since the beginning of the season.

“It’s true that we have three clean sheets, but even in those games, the opponents had chances,” Marquez explained.

“We need to improve in all aspects – defence, attack, transitions, set piece… but I’m very happy because our improvement has been big. We’re better now than in the beginning of the season.”

The level of the ISL is increasing: Odei Onaindia

Marquez was accompanied by Odei Onaindia in the pre-match press conference. The Spanish defender made his ISL debut during the 2020-21 season with Hyderabad FC under Marquez before moving to Spain. He reunited with Marquez again a season later, reaching the ISL 2022-23 playoffs with Hyderabad FC.

With Marquez joining FC Goa from Hyderabad FC during the summer transfer window, Onaindia also reunited with his head coach. The centre-back feels the ISL has improved tremendously since he first moved to India in 2020.

“I think the level of the ISL is increasing, along with the level of the players. The Indian national team also. The first season that I came here, the level was different than what it is now. Teams are strangers now and individually also. Teams are getting better now and the level will increase year by year,” Onaindia said in the pre-match press conference.

Onaindia has been a leader in defence for the Gaurs and a major reason why they have kept a league-high tally of three clean sheets from five games so far. However, the Spaniard believes the credit should go to the whole team and not just the defence.

“The defence starts from the strikers, so it is not only the defenders or the goalkeeper (that needs to be credited for the clean sheets). I think the press starts from the forward, which is why we are doing well in pressing because we (let the opponent) have less chances against us. The squad is doing well and that is why we are achieving points,” he said.