Hyderabad: Hyderabad Football Club, who made their debut in the Indian Super League (ISL) last year, had a nightmarish season finishing at the bottom of the points table with just two points. In a bid to revive their campaign, they sacked coach Phil Brown and appointed Albert Roca mid-way through the season. However, Hyderabad FC suffered a big blow after Roca departed a few months ahead of the seventh season’s kick-off to join with Spanish giants Barcelona. He was replaced with another Spaniard Manuel Marquez Roca.
The new coach Marquez is cautious and said he is optimistic going into the season. Speaking ahead of their first match against Odisha FC, which will be played on Monday, the 52-year-old said, “It is always challenging when you join a new club. It is a pleasure to be here. It is a good challenge for all of us after the last season. We are positive and optimistic. Hyderabad FC have a lot of talented youngsters in the squad. If they continue with these players, HFC can be a very good team in the future.”
When asked about the team composition for the first match, he said, “It is difficult to say now itself. We have a few more training sessions left and we will see how it goes and select the team. The first game is always important for all teams. Everyone wants to start with victory. Our focus is to give our best on the field on the day.”
Though he felt training in a bio-secure bubble is tough, they are fortunate to play the game. “We are lucky to work in these difficult times. This is a difficult time but these things make us stronger. The whole world is suffering at the moment.”
He also said they would miss the fans in stands. “Fans are the most important part of the game. It is a shame that we have to play in an empty stadium. All players want to put on a show in front of a full stadium. Playing all the matches in Goa at three venues takes away the home and away factor. I don’t see any team having the advantage of home games.”
He revealed that managing team in the long tournament can be tough. “I think injuries can be a big problem for all the teams in this season. We have to play with the conditions. As of now, two players – Dimple Bhagat and Fran Sandaza – are injured,” he revealed.
He also predicted a close contest between teams. “It is going to be a very tough season. I don’t see any clear favourites to win the title. The level of competition is equal as all teams are good. Team with more continuity in the squad will have more possibility of winning the title.”
Meanwhile midfielder Halicharan Narzary said, “It is difficult if we have a short pre-season preparation period. However, we are adjusting to the conditions and training hard. I don’t think it will have an impact.”
Striker Aridane Santana, who joined the side from Odisha FC, said he would like to have an impact with the team. He was among the top goalscorers before injury cut short his stint. “Injuries are part of the game. You can’t do much about it. Past is past and now, I want to continue the good run and make an impact at Hyderabad FC,” he added.
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