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'I have never lost against East Bengal' - Antonio Habas confident before 'Boro Match'

Published at :February 2, 2024 at 9:28 PM
Modified at :February 2, 2024 at 9:28 PM
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(Courtesy : MBSG Media)

Uttiyo Sarkar


Antonio Habas echoed the infamous saying of there being ‘no favourites in a derby’.

Mohun Bagan will restart their 2023/24 Indian Super League (ISL) campaign with a huge Kolkata derby against rivals East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Saturday (February 3). This will be a massive challenge for new head coach Antonio Habas, who will oversee his first match since replacing Juan Ferrando at the hot seat.

Feelings ahead of first Mohun Bagan game

Despite this being a major task for him, Habas is relatively relaxed for the game as he said before the clash: “I’m very happy to be here in this new season. I’m relaxed for tomorrow. I understand that this is a derby, a big football match. I want my players to relax and not be nervous, this is just one match of football and nothing else. That’s the idea!

“My ideas are always to prepare my team for 80-85% and then think about the proposal of the opponent. After that, we have to adapt to the opponent’s strengths. I’m thinking of my team’s game first, and then my opponents,” he added.

Changes from 2021 spell

Habas takes charge of Mohun Bagan after over two years since he left his role as the manager of the club. When asked about the key differences he has witnessed in the squad from the end of 2021 to now, he said: “The level of the Indian players has increased over the last few years at Mohun Bagan. We have a lot of players representing the national team, we have a good squad. Now, we want them to give their best performances for the club. We already had a good squad and after that, we had to be a good team. It’s different to be a good squad and have a good team. Our idea is to win as a good team.”

Thoughts on East Bengal’s Super Cup success and head-to-head record

The Spaniard is also unbothered by seeing East Bengal clinch the Super Cup title and outlined his own objectives going forward, stating: “No. We are already used to winning trophies, in our history. Congratulations to East Bengal for their Super Cup win. They won it, but we’ll try to win the next trophy we’re competing for.”

Antonio Habas is also keen on continuing his own personal record against East Bengal and doesn’t believe this clash is going to be a game between him against Carles Cuadrat. He explained: “I don’t have the sensation to lose because I’ve never lost against East Bengal. I want to continue that. My mentality going forward is not thinking about the possibility of losing. When you compete for one win, you have to think about getting more.”

“No special derby between Cuadrat and Me. It’s a derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. You have to totally focus on the clubs,” he added.

Are Mohun Bagan favourites for this game?

The experienced mentor also refused to term his side as the ‘favourites’ to win this match, saying:  “In derby matches, nobody is a favourite. For example, in one big derby like Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid – Real Madrid had 4-5 chances and won the derby. There are no favourites in a derby. It’s very difficult to analyze ahead of the match. It’s what happens during the match which is most important, not before or after the match.”

Habas’ plans for this season and challenge of taking charge of team mid-way

When questioned on whether he can reignite the fire inside Mohun Bagan and take them back to the top of the ISL this season, Habas stated: “I’m absolutely convinced that the team can recover from the losses. We have a good team, and have the best conditions for winning. Our idea is to win every match and get three points in every game. I remember another season in the ISL when the team was in the last position in the first round and then went on to play the semi-finals. We have to fight to recover the points we’ve lost, that’s the logical situation in football.”

The Spaniard also opened up on the challenge of taking charge at a club midway into the season, explaining: “It’s obviously more difficult because you have to change a lot of things. Ferrando did a good job at the club, and football is like this, one day it goes up and another day it can go night. Football is a game of results. Now I have to implement my conditions and my way of playing to the team, and under me, they need to be a competitive team. It’s not going to be based on any individual or one players; we play together as 11 players – this is our idea now.”

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