Carl McHugh believes the team has to focus on themselves and put in a better performance.

ATK Mohun Bagan will be facing Basundhara Kings in their next AFC Cup Group D encounter tomorrow. In the previous match, Juan Ferrando’s side lost 4-2 against Gokulam Kerala FC. Meanwhile, Basundhara Kings successfully defeated Maziya S & RC in order to bag all three points.

Ahead of the game against Basundhara Kings, ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando addressed the media. Here’s what he had to say.

Hopeful for qualification?

After suffering a defeat, the Mariners are not in a comfortable position at the table. When asked if he is hopeful of qualifying for the next round, Juan Ferrando said, “We are ready to do the best. Our target every time is to win. We know we will be playing against a very good team. Basundhara Kings were the champions of their country. The most important for us is to think about ourselves, our plan and style and to score. Chances are always there till the last moment.”

Acid test for the defence?

Tiri is out with an ACL injury. Sandesh Jhingan is not completely fit. When asked if the match against Basundhara Kings will be an acid test for the defensive third, the tactician replied, “No. We are going to continue with the same plan and style. Of course, it is important to improve in certain areas. In football, there exist some emotional moments. There are some situations where you have to change your plans. Sometimes you need to take risks. Sometimes you have success, sometimes not. I have trust in my squad. I know they want to do their best. I hope we will play much better tomorrow than how we played last Wednesday.”

Psychological battle rather than tactical?

Both the clubs need victories in this encounter. For ATK Mohun Bagan, it is about keeping their qualification hopes alive. For Basundhara Kings, it’s about placing themselves in a much more comfortable place. When asked if the game will be more of a psychological one, Juan Ferrando opined,

“Of course. It’s more than a psychological one. After the match, you have one day for recovery. Then today is the day prior to the match. You don’t have much time to prepare for the match. When you play a game and then a gap of six to seven days, you have time to think about the last game and the next game. I’m thinking about the performance and psychology of the team. They have changed their minds (freshened) now because we are ready for the next match. We know it’s a very difficult match because we are playing in an international competition. The players want to give their best every minute. It’s an important competition.”

Insufficiency in pre-season?

Many players are reportedly injured in the camp. When asked if there was an insufficiency in pre-season, the tactician asserted, “No. There are a lot of injuries. It’s just luck. There is no particular reason behind this. Normally, there exist a lot of muscle injuries. Sometimes there are difficult situations in football. It’s not an excuse. We are trying to do our best. At this moment, we have all the support for Soosairaj and Tiri because they are going through a difficult time. I hope gradually they’ll be better and can help the team primarily. The players want to play and give their best. It is difficult when you are not playing football.”

Side under pressure?

Only one team will qualify to the next round. When asked if the team is under pressure, the maestro said, “There is pressure all the time.”

He also commented on his pleasure in working with the squad, “In our squad, there are 26 players and we trust all of them. It’s not possible to play Tiri but others can help. Like Gursimrat Singh Gill and Sumit Rathi are ready to help the team. Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to make some decisions about the line-up. In the last match, I didn’t play Carl and used Lenny. I am very happy about the job this team has done. I hope in the end this team yields a good result. The players are very hardworking. For me, it’s a pleasure to work with them.”

Why team looks fatigued?

Both Gokulam Kerala and ATK Mohun Bagan have stayed inside a Bio secured Bubble and fared in their respective leagues. When asked why his team looks fatigued, Ferrando stated, “Gokulam Kerala have been playing continuously. They played twice per week in the previous month. Our last competitive game was on the 19th of April. We didn’t play a competitive game (high-intensity game) in the past month. It’s not an excuse. Football is like this. I think it’s necessary for us to focus on Basundhara Kings.”

Missing chances a serious issue?

When asked if missing goal-scoring opportunities is a serious issue, the tactician replied, “In the first half, till Tiri’s injury, we received many chances. We were unlucky because those were very clear chances. When you have two or three or four clear chances and you fail to convert them, the mentality becomes different. You think you’re unlucky. Sometimes in 90 minutes, the emotions of the players change – sometimes it’s better, sometimes not.

“If you look at Real Madrid, they changed the game in the last four or five minutes. Is it the physical condition? No. Maybe it happened because the emotional condition of the team in those minutes was perfect. Regarding the opponents, maybe they were thinking about Real Madrid changing the score. Normally, this affects the players,” Juan Ferrando shed an example as well.

Juan Ferrando was assisted by Carl McHugh in the pre-match press conference. Here’s what the midfielder had to say.

Best game to step forward?

Like ATK Mohun Bagan, Basundhara Kings too have their problems. Keeping all this in mind, will tomorrow’s match be the best opportunity for the Mariners to step forward and seal a victory? McHugh says, “The best game to step forward is always the next game. We can’t focus on what their results or injury problems are. We need to focus on ourselves and put in a better performance. We will try and get the three points and deal with what comes later and move forward from there.”

Gap between ISL and AFC affecting results?

ATK Mohun Bagan ended their ISL campaign in March. When quizzed if the two-month gap between the Indian Super League and the AFC Cup affected the result against Gokulam Kerala, the midfielder opined, “We are not looking for excuses. We didn’t win the game. ISL ended in March. We knew the situation. We didn’t perform as well as we could. But we just have to put our focus on the next game. The preparations and training have been really good. Sometimes things don’t work. We’ll just have to bounce back as a team and as a club. In the next game, we have to put in better performance and get the three points.”

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