Will compete to get that play-off spot, asserts East Bengal boss Carles Cuadrat
The Spaniard also revealed why he didn’t start with Nandhakumar Sekar.
East Bengal FC suffered their second straight loss in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 with a gutting 1-0 defeat to Mumbai City FC at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday. A solitary first-half goal from midfielder Iker Guarrotxena proved to be the only goal separating the two teams, as the Red & Gold Brigadiers failed to move closer to a play-offs spot.
After the defeat, East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat spoke to the media. Below are the excerpts.
Cuadrat pleased with players’ effort
Carles Cuadrat was pleased with the effort of his players after playing a relatively weakened team with only two foreign players starting, as he said: “We were a completely different team today and played with just two foreigners, which is always a problem in this league where all the foreigners make the difference. We won the Super Cup as we could use six foreigners. Of course, with the yellow card (suspension) of Cleiton, I could only say thank you to all my players for their effort today.
“It was a game of another league. There is one league which involves the first five teams who have 8-9 wins, and today we had a match plan to try to catch them. It was only a narrow result, and maybe with a more of aptitude, maybe if the cross of Mahesh was capitalized in the box then maybe we could’ve gotten sometimes,” he added.
Reason behind all the changes against Mumbai City
The Spaniard hinted that he had to play a protracted system on the night to avoid a heavy loss and believes his side needs to focus on the matches to come to secure a playoff spot.
He stated: “I’m a pragmatic coach who has seen a lot of football in my life. If we played our normal system today, it would’ve been a case for what has been happening in the last three seasons here where the opponents score three goals easily, because they have a lot of qualities and play with four foreigners and international players. I appreciate the players for the effort, I appreciate the club for understanding the situation, they have supported me a lot and also working hard to get in some players.
“We are doing things in the right direction, the club and Emami working together, for the first time in more than 10 years there is a roadmap and we are doing that. We were champions 15 days ago and played a wonderful game against Mohun Bagan after the Super Cup.
“But we lost Pardo and Saul (Crespo), so we shouldn’t talk about finishing the six-game unbeaten streak – this is another situation. Now we have another league in front of us, because it’s a league with six teams for the final playoff because now Punjab are also there with two wins. We will be fighting for the playoff position, we are calm – the players understand the situation and the club understand the situation. I hope the supporters also understand the situation,” he also stated.
Is the inability to play more foreign players hurting East Bengal?
When asked if the inability to play six foreign players, as they did in the Super Cup, might hurt or limit East Bengal in the ISL, Cuadrat explained: “It’s a long competition with its own rules. Now we will need to create a team with four foreigners. This is the normal plan. In the last two games, that hasn’t been possible because of circumstances. The reality of things can change instantly in football. But I’m happy as the club has a plan B, we are doing our work and we will compete to get that play-off spot. A lot of teams are fighting for that, but there will be a lot of results. Today, we have lost a game that only cost three points.
“In the last match, against NorthEast we lost a game that had 6 points – because the fight for the final slot is between them and us. Fortunately, we have a better goal advantage than NorthEast, so let’s see what happens with the rest of the opponents. I’m very happy that the team has always competed and all the games we lost is only for one goal difference. If you see the difference between goals scored and goals conceded, we are the best team in that part of the table. All the teams had negative results, but we have one goal difference for us. We need to focus, understand the competition and work very happy to get results,” he also opined.
Cuadrat confident in East Bengal’s ability to secure playoff spot
The Spaniard also urged the East Bengal fraternity to believe in the team’s ability to secure a top-6 place when questioned on if he believes in it, saying: “100%. I believe in my team. I need my players and all the supporters to believe in it. We celebrated something very special 15 days ago, but we had to recover very fast from the celebrations because we fought like warriors against Mohun Bagan in the next game after the final. We have a plan, we need to fight for that final place – I believe this. I hope the East Bengal people believe it too.”
Reason behind benching Nandhakumar
Finally, when asked about his decision not to start Nandhakumar Sekar this game, Cuadrat revealed: “It’s about protecting the players. The kind of game that I know we were going to have him, I was not ready to give him 90 minutes because he played throughout the Super Cup and a lot of minutes.
“I want to give him only a part of the game where maybe he could punish the other team in the counter-attacks and that was happening, Nandha and Vishnu created a lot of half-chances and at the end we missed a good pass and good shots – but the plan was there and it was meant for them to make an impact. I must say bravo to the starting XI who began the game and XI who finished the game, they gave a very good effort,” he finished off with.
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