The ATK Mohun Bagan head coach revealed how he plans to stop the Nizams’ second ball duels.

ATK Mohun Bagan are aiming to secure a place in the 2022-23 Indian Super League (ISL) final as they host Hyderabad FC on Monday. It’s a proverbial ‘final’ in its own sense after the two teams battled out a 0-0 draw last week.

Ferrando sees upcoming clash as a final

That’s what ATK Mohun Bagan manager Juan Ferrando definitely thinks going into the game, as he said in the pre-match press conference: “For us, this is like a final. It’ll be a 90-minute fixture. In the last game, things were different because another match was there. We want to win because we want to reach the final. We’ll have no special details, but it’s an important match and it’ll be important for us to do the job in 90 minutes.”

What changes do ATKMB need to make from last game?

When asked about what changes he needs to make from the last game, the Spaniard said: “Sometimes we had problems with our transitions in the last match, but that’s normal because it was an away game. Everyone knows the strength of Hyderabad and their quality players. They were fresher than us in the last game as well. We’re in the same situation in this one. It’s important to be ready with the tactical and technical details, but it’ll be important to control the game tomorrow. The players are tired, so there are many reasons necessary to control tomorrow.”

Thoughts on next game and praise for January signings

Juan Ferrando also expects both teams to play impressive attacking football that could deter the brilliant defensive record the two sides have. He stated: “I think the stats prove that both teams are defensively great, but both will also be paling attacking football. I don’t think either of the players will think about extra-time. We’re not thinking if both teams are working in defence or something like that. Both teams will want to win the match and play attacking football.”

Ferrando also had a lot of praise for defender Slavko Damjanovic and midfielder Federico Gallego, praising their impact after joining the club in January. He explained: “He’s an amazing player. In the case of Slavko and Gallego, we’re happy because they joined the team in January and are very good in the dressing room. They know their roles in our team and how to help the team in five minutes, one minute or even 90 minutes. I’m very happy because they are fantastic, not only in tactical or technical qualities but also with their characters. Their job in the dressing room is perfect.”

Does Juan Ferrando plan on changing his philosophy for this one?

When questioned if he plans on changing his philosophy for this fixture, the Spaniard mentioned: “I won’t change my philosophy. We won the matches here by sticking to our philosophy. If we want to win here, we need to play on the attack. Of course, when the opposition wins the second ball and puts focus on transition – we’ll need to focus more on defending. But our philosophy is the same all the time. It’s to control the spaces, keep the ball and attack. And of course, win the match!”

Ferrando proud of ATKMB’s character growth in this ISL season

Juan Ferrando is proud of how far his team has come after a difficult season riddled with injuries and other problems. He quipped: “I think for me, the most important thing is we need to improve as a team. When you improve as a team, it’s necessary to improve the individual players. The balance between young players and experienced ones is long. That’s why it’s difficult to find foreign players to help the team continue working in one way. This season had a lot of difficult moments because we lost important players. But it’s most important for us to continue in the same way.

“Of course, we’re disappointed about one moment of the season – but the real situation is how the team showed character when we struggled. For me, that’s the most important thing. As a coach, I can tell you that when we lost matches and for me to see the team work hard after that, I saw that the team can do better and reach the final. We never changed our idea and kept going with our philosophy. It’s necessary to improve every day. If I’m not improving with our methodology, it’ll be difficult for the players to improve as well,” he added.

Hugo Boumous situation and how to deal with Hyderabad’s second ball duels

Speaking about the fitness levels of Hugo Boumous and why he was substituted in the last match, Juan Ferrando said: “Obviously, when you prepare for the match, it’s necessary to ensure that the performance of the players are at a 100%. Sometimes they have problems with their muscles, and sometimes they might not be at their best in a match and then we need to change our plans. In the last 20 minutes against Hyderabad, when Ogbeche (Bartholomew) was on the field, they are attacking and fighting for the second ball in the middle. That’s why you need someone like Gallego to help fight for the ball and win the same. Hugo was tired at that moment. Sometimes you need to take decisions based on the plan of the opponent.”

When asked about how he aims to make his side able to stop Hyderabad’s tendency to win the second balls and duels in the match, Ferrando revealed: “In one match in 90 minutes, there is a need to change a lot of details at times. When the opponent decides to play long ball, you need to be compact to win those aerial balls. When the opponent decides to play build-up and use the wingers, you must use a high press to stop them. It’s our job as a staff to make the players ready for this.

“In front of us, we have one final and we can’t change the plan, because everyone wants to win. You need to control a lot of details for these matches. If you have no success in one match, then you stick to the plan for another one. For tomorrow, it’s necessary to control a lot of things.”

ATKMB to continue playing the same way as first leg

The ATKMB boss also insists that his side will continue with the same style as they did for the last game. He claimed: “Our target is to play the same way all the time. Against Hyderabad, Nikhil (Poojary) and Mishra (Akash) were playing in more narrowly central areas of the pitch and it’s necessary to find the empty spaces in these situations. So obviously, it’s necessary to control the timings.

He added, “We have succeeded in finding spaces but not in our timing. Here, we’ll see. Maybe we’ll stick to the plan or change based on Hyderabad’s plan. If they change the plan after 10-20 minutes, we need to change the plan. But we’ll try to keep the ball, find the spaces and the best moments to attack the spaces. In case Hyderabad try new things, we’ll be ready.”

Is ATKMB prepared for extra-time or penalties?

Finally, Juan Ferrando was asked if his side is prepared for the game to go into extra-time or penalties if the regulatory 90 minutes end up as a draw. He said: “We’re thinking about winning in 90 minutes. If we think about extra-time or penalties, I don’t like that. The team is ready to win in 90 minutes. But we’ve practised for other cases too, and it’s necessary for the players on the bench to be ready for extra-time. But we’ve prepared to end the match in 90 minutes,” the Spaniard concluded.

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