PANAJI: FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena made it clear that his team is still under pressure in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) despite beating Kerala Blasters FC in their previous game. FC Goa will be looking to make it back-to-back home wins as they host East Bengal FC in Matchweek 17 of the Hero ISL at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Goa, on Thursday.
The Gaurs put an end to their four-match winless streak with a dominant 3-1 win against Kerala Blasters FC in their previous game. Pena’s side are placed fifth in the Hero ISL table after 23 points in 15 games. Meanwhile, East Bengal FC, who are placed eighth, have accumulated 12 points in their kitty, and will be aiming to revive their playoffs hopes, with six games to go.
The win against the Blasters may have provided a huge boost to FC Goa, but Pena cautioned his team about the upcoming challenge against East Bengal FC and called for his team to maintain their focus.
“The pressure has not decreased, we have the same pressure as before. Of course, it was a necessary victory because the team was performing well, but not getting the results earlier. We played a complete game against Kerala Blasters FC and we had success in both boxes, which was the difference. But now we are absolutely focused on Thursday. We know it has the same importance as the last game and we want to get three points,” Pena said in the pre-match press conference.
East Bengal FC have suffered three straight defeats. They will be facing a FC Goa side, who have been strong at home and head into the game on the back of a win. However, Pena admitted there are no favourites for the game and that any team could win.
“There are no favourites. We played a game three days ago and it’s going to be a challenge for us. East Bengal FC will be more fresh than us and they’ve had more time to rest. But Thursday, we have all the motivation. We must win (regardless) of fatigue. They will try to make use of the last chances they have to be in the top six. In this league, anything can happen. All the teams are competitive. Every game is tight. We are ready for Thursday. We are convinced it’s going to be tough and will focus on getting three points,” he said.
FC Goa, on Tuesday, agreed for a swap deal with ATK Mohun Bagan, that sees Lenny Rodrigues joining the Gaurs till the end of the season while Glan Martins goes the other way around, signing for the Mariners on a long-term loan move.
Talking about the deal, Pena said: “Well, the players must be where they want to stay. Glan had an offer from ATK Mohun Bagan in the summer too, but he thought about that offer (he received now) for sometime and finally he was transferred. I want to say thanks to Glan for his commitment (for FC Goa) during his time here. He tried to help the team. Now Lenny has arrived and I know him as a player and a person.”
One of the few players to be part of the Hero ISL since it’s inception, Rodrigues comes with huge experience under his belt, having played over 130 games in the league. The veteran midfielder reunites with head coach Pena, who he played alongside during their time with FC Goa from 2018-20. However, Pena was not fully sure about Rodrigues’ prospects of being in the starting eleven against East Bengal FC.
“He (Rodrigues) is available and fit. He knows the way we play and the way FC Goa play. It doesn’t change many things. He will be ready to help the team. Let’s see if he starts or will help the team later (off the bench),” Pena stated.
With centre-back Marc Valiente suffering a long-term injury, Pena revealed the Gaurs are looking to replace the injured Spanish defender in the ongoing transfer window.
“We are trying to replace Marc because he is an important player for us. We are close to one player who is not done yet. We need another player who can help us in defence and the plan is to look for a player who shows ambition. This player is going to help us for the last part of the season,” he concluded.