Hyderabad FC host Chennaiyin FC at the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolin for their first game of the eighth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). HFC, after failing to qualify for the playoffs last season, will be eyeing for the top-4 spot this season. The Nizams, under their head coach Manolo Márquez, will be looking to maintain their inspiring performance from last season.
The club has retained its core team and coaching staff from last year and has also made some amazing signings. However, they will miss the services of senior Indian international, Liston Colaco who has joined ATK Mohun Bagan. Márquez admits that this edition of the ISL will be tougher, but he is also confident that his side is ready to accept the challenge.
Here's what the Hyderabad head coach had to say in full in his pre-match press conference:
On preparation for the Indian Super League(ISL) and pre-season friendlies...
On lessons learned from the previous season and the upcoming challenge...
The HFC boss was asked about his team's performance in the 2020-21 season. To this, he explained, "Last season was fantastic for us. If you see our last encounter against FC Goa, we were almost through to the playoffs until Ivan's (Gonzalez) denied us in the 94th minute with a goal-line clearance. But it was not just about that when you're playing a league of 20 matches, you have to take every possible opportunity."
On asked about his new hurdles, the 53-year-old said, "You've to be positive when you are beginning a new season. You have to be always optimistic but we can't afford to repeat the same mistakes we did last season. And I believe we have a very good chance to qualify for the playoffs this time."
On team news ahead of the opening clash
HFC missed out on some of their crucial players due to injuries last season. This time when asked about injuries and absentees he said, "It is too early to talk about this, we still have four or five days left before the game. But, as of now, there are no injury issues in the squad and everyone is available for the selection".
Importance of Bartholomew OgbecheWhen asked about his seniormost player in the squad he said, " He's a huge player for us. Having a player of his caliber always helps the team. He brings the experience of playing in the World Cup and Champions League. Barth is also currently the third-highest goalscorer in the Indian Super League. So, yes, I'm looking forward to seeing him in the tournament."
His advice to young Indian playersManolo Márquez started his managerial career at the age of 34 and he came to India last year with a lot of experience. He said the new rule of four foreigners will help the young players to get more game time. He reflected on his experience of working with young Indian players and said, "The difference is their mentality. When you see players like Sunil Chhetri, they don't lose hope too early and instead, they work harder to get it done better. But, in the case of young players, they lose their focus too early. As I said, the mentality is the key difference and they should work hard on it."
On Rohit Danu
The Spaniard, in his view on Danu, said, "He is smart and I believe he will be an important member for us in this year's ISL". "He is only 19 and if nurtured well, he can become a great prospect for Indian football in the future", he added.