ATK Mohun Bagan come into this game after their disappointing 1-0 defeat to Jamshedpur FC, which saw them concede the League Winner’s Shield to them, ending their 15-match unbeaten run. Juan Ferrando would want his side to forget about that result and shift their focus on a tough battle against Hyderabad FC. The Mariners come into this game in mixed form, winning only two of their last five matches. This stuttering form resulted in them finishing third in the ISL league table with 37 points to their name.
Hyderabad FC have four victories in their previous five matches, but they have failed to register a clean sheet and have conceded eight goals over that period. They finished the season in second place with 38 points. Manuel Marquez’s men arrive in good form, winning four of their last five games. However, their recent defeats against fellow semi-finalists, ATK Mohun Bagan and Jamshedpur FC show that there are chinks in their armor.
The Mariners and the Nizams have played each other four times. Three of those games have been drawn and ATK Mohun Bagan has won the most recent match, 2-1 where Liston and Manvir scored.
ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando addressed the media during the pre-match press conference ahead of their semi-final first leg game against Hyderabad FC on Saturday at the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim, Goa. Below are his excerpts from the media interaction.
ATK Mohun Bagan got quite a few corners in the previous game but failed to convert from those. Juan spoke on if the team is giving special stress on such set-piece situations ahead of the upcoming game.
“No, I think it’s not necessarily. Of course, we did not get any success, but it is not the time to put focus on only one detail in football. In football, you have to focus on a lot of details. Sometimes, you succeed, sometimes you do not. Sometimes, it’s necessary to change details but it’s difficult to put stress on a particular detail when you don’t have (enough) training sessions and play a lot of games in a short time.”
Juan spoke on star striker Roy Krishna’s underwhelming form.
“I think the case with Roy and everyone in the squad, it’s necessary to talk about what was a very difficult season. He was out of the squad after testing positive for COVID-19. He was out of the squad after getting injured and out of the squad because after COVID it was sometimes necessary to rest him to prevent further injuries. To talk about the statistics or performance of the players, be it, Roy, Prabir (Das), or even the goalkeepers, it’s the same. It’s been a very difficult season. For me, it’s a season that might need to be deleted because it’s difficult to work in these conditions.”
Juan spoke about the threats they might have to face while playing against Hyderabad FC in the semi-finals.
“We’ll play against a very good team, we will play against a very good squad. Hyderabad FC comes to the semi-final after an amazing 20 games this season. They will play without pressure, they would want to enjoy the playoff. They want to enjoy, they want to win, they have had a perfect season.”
“For us, it’s two games and for this club, this team, the mentality is to win every game. There’s no such plan to keep calm in the first game and attack in the second game. Our mentality is to win tomorrow and also win next Wednesday. Our dream is to be in the finals and we hope to be there.”
Apart from the experienced players, young Indian players like Aniket Jadhav, Ashish Rai, Akash Mishra, and Rohit Danu are all playing well. Juan rated Hyderabad FC’s young Indian contingent.
“Yes, I know their talents. I feel it’s not only because of the players for what they’ve achieved, and how they’ve improved. I think it’s very important to talk about the scouts in Hyderabad FC because they tried to find good players. They know about the performance of these players, and the coaching staff working a lot with the younger players at the end helped them get good results.
“It’s the same for us, working with players like Sumit (Rathi), (Ravi) Rana, and Abhishek (Suryavanshi). It is necessary to work with them because they have talent. In the end, the most important thing is to help them (improve) day by day and with every training session.”
Bartholomew Ogbeche has been Hyderabad FC’s best striker this season. Juan spoke on how he plans to tackle him.
“I’ve got a plan and it’s not possible to explain all this. But it is important to believe in ourselves, to keep the ball for us, to try and find the spaces, to try and play attacking football. This is the best plan against Hyderabad FC.”
“I know their strengths because they’re working together like us all through the season. When you prepare for one team and when you’re working in the same way for two years, this results in success and it’s normal that they’re confident, they’re at a good level. I hope this is also the same case for us when we’re working together for two seasons.”
In the two matches the Nizams and the Mariners played earlier in the season, ATK Mohun Bagan came out on top once, while the other game ended in a 2-2 draw. Juan spoke on if it will give them an edge in the tie against Hyderabad FC.
“I don’t think there’s an advantage. I think it will be difficult for both teams. Earlier, people used to tell me that we have two or three games in front of us, while the rest of the teams are playing their last game. When the games are very close, there’s not much time to prepare. I don’t think there will be any such advantage.”
Juan spoke about how he will motivate the players after the defeat in the last game, especially after missing out on the opportunity to claim the League Winners’ Shield.
“It is so easy explaining all the time that – the past is past. That is finished. Okay. We can learn some details, but this is the past, it is not possible to change. In front of us, it is a little bit of a challenge in the semi-final and hopefully the final. With the AFC Cup being in front of us, we have a good future for the club.”
Juan feels there’s no point in dwelling on the loss as the result cannot be changed now. They would rather focus on the upcoming semi-final tie against Hyderabad FC.
“Of course, it was very disappointing. Last Monday was a difficult day but in football, like in life, the most important is the present and the future. The loss against Jamshedpur FC is now in the past, and it’s not possible to change anything. Our future and our present are in our hands and that’s the most important thing. Put our focus and energy into the next game.”
The goals dried up in the past few matches. Juan spoke about how he would like to address the issue.
“This is football. Sometimes the reason is due to the tactical plan. We try to find solutions to this. Sometimes, we lacked in a few moments. That is a part of football.
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