Sergio Lobera is in his second year at FC Goa after finishing as semi-finalists in the Indian Super League (ISL) last season. The Gaurs' head coach is confident in his squad for the upcoming season.
"I am very happy with the squad that we have at our disposal. It is a very competitive and balanced team," the Spaniard told Goal. "The club has made a great effort to replace the loss of key international players in Pronay (Halder) and Narayan (Das) by adding good quality replacements.
The club has made signings such as goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte, fullback Nirmal Chettri and medio Lenny Rodrigues among the Indian contingent while adding the likes of Carlos Pena, Mourtada Fall (both defenders) and midfielder Miguel Palanca among the foreigners.
With regard to the foreign requisitions, akin to Ahmed Jahouh and Hugo Boumous, Fall also trained under Lobera during his time at Moroccan side Moghreb Tetouan.
"Obviously, having players that you have worked with previously is very positive because you know them and they are already well aware of my style of working," reasoned the former Barcelona youth coach.
The hugely effective partnership of Manuel Lanzarote and Ferran Corominas (Coro) that produced 31 of the 42 goals scored by FC Goa (Coro -18, Lanzarote - 13) last season was broken with the former choosing to join rivals ATK for a record-breaking fee. However, Lobera is unperturbed.
"I have always said that the team is always above any one individual. The group is the most important thing, and if we function well together, we will be able to keep creating more goalscoring chances and break our records from last season.
"Yes, it is true that Coro scored a lot of goals for us last year. However, I maintain that the group is the most important thing," he insisted.
Scoring goals was FC Goa's forte under the 41-year-old last season. But the team would also go on to concede a considerable number of goals last season (28).
"As a coach, you always have to work on improving things. We need to make sure we maintain all the good things we have done last season, which is not easy at all. We can also improve defensively without forgetting about our offensive style of play. I don't think improving our defence will make us attack any less," Lobera warned.
He continued, "To beat our offensive stats from last season is a difficult ask as we were able to break some records. However, we can still improve in the defensive areas and that is what we will be working on."
Just like last season, FC Goa's first team is currently in Spain for their pre-season where they recently beat Deportivo Minera and are expected to play more friendlies before returning to Goa.
"The facilities at La Manga are world-class and I would like to thank the club for making an effort to ensure the team comes back here to train. Pre-season is a key period of the season for adaptation of new players and to assimilate the ideas as well as our style of play.
"We are in an ideal place to ensure that we complete the objectives we had set out to achieve. We need to ensure we are ready to be competitive from the first game as we know how difficult this league is," stated Lobera.
The 2018-19 ISL is set to have two international breaks in the first half of the season, as well as a winter break from December 16 to allow the Indian national team to prepare for the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup 2019.
Commenting on the league's new format, the FC Goa coach said, "I am sure the league organizers have done what they consider best, keeping in mind the breaks, etc. I am very happy with this league and last year was an exceptional experience. I think it is a great league with great organisation and I am certain that this season, it will be a complete success."