The ATK Mohun Bagan boss also made it clear that he has Liston Colaco’s back during his poor run of form.

ATK Mohun Bagan will be battling with Bengaluru FC in the 2022-23 Indian Super League (ISL) final at the Fatorda Stadium, Goa on Saturday, 18 March. Juan Ferrando’s side are looking to win their first ISL title and put an end to a disappointing multi-year trophy drought.

Ferrando focused on winning title for ATKMB

Juan Ferrando is pleased to return to Goa, but is fully focused on winning the ISL final. He said in the pre-match press conference: “I’m happy because we’re in the final. We’ve had a difficult season with a lot of matches and lots of difficult moments. But I’m happy because we’re here for the players. They’ve worked through a lot of difficult moments and have thought about the team all the time. We have 90 minutes ahead of us. Hopefully, we enjoy the game and end the season with a victory.”

When asked if getting to the final is a nice cherry on top for his journey as the ATKMB boss, he said: “For me, it’s not thinking about myself. For me, the present is the most important thing and not the past. ATKMB are in the final and we want to win the trophy. I want to help the players and prepare a good plan. This is my feeling, the past is the past. I hope we win the trophy. But Sunday will be a new day and then it’ll be necessary to prepare for new challenges. My job is to help the club to improve. But it’s much better for everyone if ATKMB win the trophy.”

Prospect of facing former players and head-to-head record against BFC

ATK Mohun Bagan face off against multiple former players at Bengaluru FC, like Roy Krishna, Sandesh Jhingan and Prabir Das. Questioned on if knowing their qualities can be an advantage to his side, the Spaniard: “No, it’s not an advantage. They know my players too. They’re good players with a lot of talent. It’ll be a 11v11 game. The most important thing is to use my energy to help my players. I have a lot of respect for their players because they’re good players, but I’m focused on my team. The only advantage we’ll have is by trusting to our plan and using our energy to win.”

The Mariners have faced off against Bengaluru FC twice this season, winning one and losing once. Speaking on the plans for the game, and if his side will have the same approach as they had against Hyderabad FC in the semi-finals, Juan Ferrando explained: “We won the first game (against BFC), lost the second game and now it’s time to win. That’s our target. We’ll have more options to win. We trust in our plan and hope to go through the season in the same way.

“But this is a different mentality. We’re talking about the situation of the matches a lot of time, but this is a final and it will be decided in 90 minutes. It’ll be important for everyone to do their best and be positive. I hope my players can produce their best performance of the season and get the trophy.

WATCH: ATK Mohun Bagan training session ahead of final

“Of course, we need to change some details because it’s different playing against Bengaluru than Hyderabad. But our process is the same. It’s about keeping the ball, try to find spaces, capitalising on the attacking spaces during these spaces. But of course, Bengaluru has a different style and point of view of football. We need to change some points, but our plan remains the same all the time,” he added.

Juan Ferrando hopeful of ending game in 90 minutes

Ferrando also hopes his side can get the job done in 90 minutes and avoid extra-time, as he bluntly stated: “I don’t like extra time. I’m never thinking about dragging games beyond 90 minutes. Sometimes depending on the opponents or moments, but we want to win the game in 90 minutes ideally. Because this is our plan all the time. We want to get the trophy in 90 minutes,” he also quipped.

Did the Spaniard believe Bengaluru FC can get to the final?

When asked if he could imagine facing Bengaluru FC in the final after seeing them paired with Mumbai City in the semis, the mentor revealed: “If you watched Bengaluru’s last 6-7 matches, their performances have been good and they’ve had success. It’s normal when one team have confidence in the last 4-5 matches and get good results.

He added, “They won away to Mumbai, so when that happens you’re thinking they can be the opponent in the final. Of course, in the penalty shootout, anything is possible. But when they won against Mumbai in the first leg, they had a lot of challenge in that and it’s not easy to defeat Mumbai in their home. I believed they could get to the final.”

Injury update and plans to keep red-hot Bengaluru side quiet

Juan Ferrando gave a positive update on the fitness levels of his squad, and also an injury update on Ashique Kuruniyan. He said: “At the moment, we don’t have reports on anything. All the players want to be ready. We have another training before the final. We have time to decide about the best XI for the final. He’s (Ashique) working with the team. Hopefully he can be fit. He’s working normally with the team.”

Speaking about what his side needs to do to deal with an in-form red-hot BFC side, the Spaniard stated: “It was key to address the emotional things. The second game against Bengaluru was incredible, they had a lot of confidence and played like a team. It’s important for my team to control their emotions and feelings and to trust in our process.

 When did Ferrando believe ATKMB could reach the ISL final? “On Christmas eve, when we lost the game against NorthEast United, I spoke to our director and told him that we’ll 100% reach the final,” he said.

Biggest challenges faced this season

When quizzed on the biggest challenges he faced in the difficult ISL season, Ferrando revealed:  “When we lost players in 2-3 weeks or team struggled to score goals from a lot of opportunities, it was a challenge because the players are human and have feelings. They worked hard even during Holi, Durga Puja or even Christmas time. It was difficult of course. One positive thing is, we learned about ourselves. If we’re working together, we can change everything. Everything is in our hands. We don’t lose energy on excuses or negative feedback. Of course, it’s difficult to change your ways but the team worked in difficult moments to work together and believe in the positives.”

Juan Ferrando’s passionate explanation for importance of winning ISL final

Ferrando gave a heartfelt response when asked if winning the final can be a defining moment for his managerial career. He mentioned: “Maybe I have a different mentality, but I’m not thinking about having to win the final to boost my career. I’m enjoying my time at this club and the mentality is different. I like this project and the people in the club trust in my process of football. I’m not thinking about winning the trophy for my career. Your career can go through ups and downs and be different. I hope the club wins the trophy because they helped me and trusted in my things.

“That is the most important thing for me. I want to check the faces of the players if they win the trophy. It’s the most important trophy for me if they are happy. I know they’ve gone through difficult moments to have success. Pritam (Kotal), before he took the penalty shot against Hyderabad, he told me he wanted to take the last penalty. When he scored, that was more important to reach the final. That was perfect. It’s brilliant that he’s a player who trusts in me, trusts in the team or trusts himself. I’m never thinking about how important this trophy is for me. I want to win, of course, but I love to win with the team,” he added.

Juan Ferrando backs Colaco to get better

The Spaniard was also quick to defend under-fire Liston Colaco, who has been heavily criticized for his disappointing campaign. He said: “The performances of the wingers in our case, be it Manvir (Singh), Liston or Ashique – to play as a winger is not so easy. The performance of the team in the build-up is good, they move quickly to find spaces. But the performance of wingers isn’t easy. It’s difficult for the wingers when they’re low in confidence. Also, when you play like a centre-back or in defence, when a No.9 or No.10 doesn’t work to help the defence, they’ll have problems too. I think it’s unfair to think about one player. Maybe his performance isn’t good. But 90% of the performance depends on the team.

“Liston is a good player, but does need to learn at time and he has made mistakes. It’s our target to help him improve certain details. I’m not disappointed when he makes mistakes because it’s normal. He has time to learn, he’s only 24, and we want to keep trust in him and keep calm. It’s necessary to keep calm and support them because it’s part of football. If the team has everyone, be it the No.9, No.10 or defenders, everyone is a part of football,” he also stated.

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