The ATK Mohun Bagan boss also spoke of the free-kick controversy that took place last Friday.

ATK Mohun Bagan are all set to visit Hyderabad FC for the first leg of the Indian Super League (ISL 2022-23) playoffs on Thursday, 9 March. Juan Ferrando’s side lost their playoffs tie to the Nizams last year and will be hoping to reverse that result in this occasion.

Ferrando on plans to replace Ashique

With Ashique Kuruniyan a major doubt with an injury for the clash, Juan Ferrando opened up about plans to replace him. He said at the pre-match press conference: “We have 25 players in the squad and if we have injuries or suspensions, we have players who can be used in those positions to replace certain players. I’m not worried. Ashique has a bad injury, which we’re not happy about.

“But in the last 2-3 days we worked on a plan without him and prepared the team on some points without him. It’s not possible to change anything in football. We’re very disappointed about the tackle Ashique suffered for the injury, that wasn’t normal. But we can only now accept our fate and work on the plan without Ashique,” he added.

Dealing with Bart Ogbeche

When asked about whether he’s worried about the threat of the experienced Bartholomew Ogbeche for the game, the Spaniard stated: “I’m not worried about Ogbeche or any particular player. We’re worried about the whole team. Ogbeche has been a very good goal-scorer for the last 2-3 seasons, when he played for Mumbai and even for Hyderabad – his performance has been very good.

He added, “But our focus is on the team, because it’s a 11v11 game. The entire squad is in the semi-finals and we can’t focus on one player. The team reached the semi-finals because a lot of players worked on the same plan and worked well, which is why this has ended up as the result.”

Ferrando’s plans and approach for Hyderabad FC clash

Juan Ferrando has also urged his side to stick to their plan and limit the spaces for Hyderabad’s dangerous players to get a positive result. He said: “I’ll always stick to the plan. We keep a simple plan, we want to control the attacking spaces and play attacking football. It’ll remain the same, be it the semi-finals or the final. We don’t have any special plan to prioritize defensive football in the upcoming game.

“It’s necessary to control the spaces in transition because everyone knows the threat of Joel (Chianese), Akash (Mishra), and Yasir (Mohammed) – so we need to work on those details. But our plan remains the same. We look to progress the ball quickly in the build-up, keep the ball and control the spaces in the attack.”

When asked if he’ll be more cautious with his approach for the first leg of the playoffs away from home, the ATKMB boss stated: “This is a 180-minute tie. It’s important to control a lot of details because we’ll play two matches. It’s impossible to reach the final after the first match, because there is a second leg. But it’ll be very difficult to change the score in the second leg if we again lose a game by a 3-1 margin. It’ll be important to control some points in the first leg because if the score is tighter, it’ll be easier to reach the final.

“But these matches are complicated because it’s important to control things with every minute, you need to control your emotions because one red card can change all the plans for a team. We need to focus to think about the first half against Hyderabad and then the second half. We’ll take things one step at a time,” he also said.

Improvement in set-piece scenarios

The Mariners have scored from set-pieces in both of their last games. Speaking about their quality of set-pieces improving as the season has progressed, Juan Ferrando explained: “We can talk about the Slavko (Damjanovic) goal against East Bengal or Boumous’ goal against Odisha. But when we play at home, we have a lot of chances in set-pieces. In the last two matches, our players had more success. But in the past games, against Mumbai or Chennaiyin, Brendal (Hamill) had no success. Of course, we’re happy that we’re having more success in set-pieces, but we keep working on a lot of details on set-pieces.

“Sometimes we have success, sometimes we don’t. But I’m happy that the players have been working on set-pieces or counter-attacks for the last nine months. It’s a time to be happy as we now have success. But we must change some details because it’s not the same to play against Hyderabad as it was against Odisha or East Bengal. It’s a different match against a different opponent,” he quipped.

Which team would ATKMB ideally want to face in ISL Final?

When asked about whom among Bengaluru FC or Mumbai City he’d prefer to face in the final if ATKMB progress, Juan Ferrando commented: “It’s difficult to tell that because both teams are in a great opportunity to reach the final. They both have good squad, they have very good players. In my point of view, I think Mumbai have had an amazing season. In the case of Bengaluru, we can talk about the 6-7 matches where they’ve been good and more confident. Bengaluru creates one chance and score one goal. But the performance of Mumbai this season were very good.

“But I think Bengaluru are high on motivation or confidence because their tactical plan is the same all the time. I’m only thinking about reaching the final for now, this is our dream. I’m not worried if it’s Bengaluru or Mumbai. We need to reach the final and enjoy the final and hopefully win the trophy,” he added.

What would have Ferrando done if Sunil Chhetri’s controversial free-kick goal happened to his side?

Juan Ferrando was also questioned on what he would have done if the controversial goal scored by Sunil Chhetri against Kerala Blasters happened against his side. He explained his stance, saying: “Honestly, it’s a confusing situation because I spoke to some people. If it’s true that the referee says wait, it’s normal for everyone to fight. Because the rules aren’t the same for everyone. It’s difficult because I don’t know what happened, if the referee told Luna to stay out or whether he told Chhetri to wait for the wall to be set up and kick the ball. It’s confusing for me, I think only Chhetri, (Adrian) Luna and Crystal (John) know the truth. But I’m disappointed to see that. Because on a lot of occasions, this happens here in India. The assistant referees decide one thing and the referee decides on another thing.

Full Coverage of the Free-kick Controversy:

“They need to be more clear about their rules. Sometimes this is a problem because the players can let their emotions get the better of them and that can also apply for the coaches. Kerala Blasters worked hard for only 90 minutes and only for one decision to outdo them and knock them out of the semi-finals. I think only Luna, Chhetri and Crystal know the truth about what happened. Everyone is now talking about Kerala and Bengaluru now, but this is the same – they’re not following the rules for everyone and this is a problem,” he added.

Nervous about refereeing for the next game?

Moreover, when questioned on if he is nervous about the refereeing for the next game, Ferrando said: “It’s complicated to talk about a lot of details. For me, the most important thing for my players is to control their emotions in tomorrow’s game. When they played the last match at Hyderabad, they found it difficult to control the transitions. If we want to reach the final, we need to be clear with our plans for the two matches. Tomorrow we need to be ready not only on the physical side, but mentally as well.”

Ferrando tips his domestic stars to match Chhetri’s qualities in future

Finally, Juan Ferrando also had some praises for Sunil Chhetri for his impressive run of form – but believes some of his team’s players can also reach his level in the upcoming years. He said: “While talking about ATKMB, we see a lot of matches ahead. We’ll see about him. He’s a smart player. Yesterday, his goal was clever as he managed to outwit (Mourtada) Fall for it. He scores goals because he has a lot of experience and knows how to manipulate the spaces.

“When players play every season, they know when to control the spaces and the runs. But when the likes of Liston (Colaco), Ashique and Manvir (Singh) are 37-38 and maybe they’ll be at the same level as Chhetri in the next five years. Chhetri is very smart and that is why he scores goals every 2-3 matches. He controls the spaces and knows when to attack in the best moment,” he finished off with.

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