Hyderabad FC currently sits at the top of the table with 23 points from 13 games. Meanwhile their opponents in the next game, NorthEast United FC, are 10th in the standings with 10 points from 14 games, and Khalid Jamil’s side would be desperate to end a 7 game winless run tonight. A win against NorthEast United FC will ensure that the Nizams retain their place at the top of the table.
Hyderabad coach Manolo Marquez knows that his team will have the upper hand against a struggling NorthEast side. After a 4-0 thumping of SC East Bengal, the Nizams defeated Odisha FC in a five-goal thriller in their last match whereas the Highlanders played out a 1-1 draw against Mumbai City FC in their last game after two consecutive defeats against Odisha FC and Chennaiyin FC.
Hyderabad FC coach Manolo Marquez addressed the media in the pre-match press conference ahead of tonight’s game against Northeast United FC which is set to be played at the Fatorda Stadium. Below are his excerpts from the press conference.
Manolo was asked about the mood in the camp after back-to-back wins.
“The mood is better after the two wins. Usually, in the second leg of the league, it’s difficult to get wins. Practically, all of the teams are still in the battle to arrive in the top four. We are happy with the six points, but now we have to focus on the next opponent.”
Marquez spoke about the team’s realistic chances of winning the championship or going into the playoffs.
“It’s too early to say. The fight for the top four maybe will last till the final game. The first eight teams have the possibility to qualify. It is very unpredictable because there are a lot of games between the teams fighting for the top four.”
Manolo shared his thoughts on how players like Joao, Mishra, and Joel were on the scoresheet in the last game and how important it’s for the team to not always depend on Ogbeche for scoring the goals.
“It’s fantastic that we have the top scorer in the league, but it is very important that other players contribute with some goals. I think it was positive to score three goals, win the game, and one day Bart (Bartholomew Ogbeche) did not score, it is good that we have more players who can score.”
NorthEast United FC are currently 10th in the league table. They have also signed some new players in the winter transfer window. Manolo explains how he expects the game to unfold.
“They (NEUFC) deserved to win against Chennaiyin FC very clearly. They hit the crossbar multiple times in the second half. This NorthEast United team is more similar to the previous season, with good foreigners and enthusiastic Indian players. It will be a difficult game 100%.”
Marquez spoke about the importance of performing consistently despite the COVID situation.
“We have to continue in this line and at this moment ISL has to reschedule the (postponed) games because we cannot wait till the end. Some teams like Jamshedpur FC, ATK Mohun Bagan, and Kerala Blasters FC, play 1-2 games and then they will play the rescheduled games. But, they cannot wait and put these games at the end of the championship, as it will be negative for the competition.”
“The other day we knew at 3:45 PM that Sana (Chinglensana Singh) could not play and Juanan could play. It’s not only a problem for Hyderabad, but I want to say that unpredictability of players is negative for Indian football. In pre-season, nobody wants to record the games, know the lineups. The football would grow if there are a maximum number of formations for every team.“
Manolo spoke on the importance of having a balance in the team, as the Nizams have scored the most goals in the league and also are solid in the defense as they conceded the fewest goals.
“If you get to continue with this balance, you have a lot of possibilities to finish in the top four. If you are the team to score most goals and one of the teams to concede less, obviously the balance is very good. But, there are teams with many games left, it’s impossible to know which is the real table.”
Manolo was asked if the rule of four foreigners on the field at any given time which was brought at the beginning of the season has benefitted Indian players who are getting more game-time in any way.
“We are in a strange championship. If all the league is in the same situation, I could answer better. But, in my personal opinion, before the season began, four players on the pitch were okay. But, five players in the squad is better than six. More Indian players would have the chance to play and would have one foreign substitution.”
Marquez spoke about how important it is to maintain the momentum with upcoming matches being against teams who are potential top-four challengers.
“It’s better to win all the games, but if you win a game against a team that is fighting for top four, it’s not only three points for you, but less three for the opponents. I think it is not about teams fighting for the top four, but about the moment of the opponent when you play against them. Till now, all the games have been difficult.”
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