The Spanish manager is confident his team will make the playoffs…
With four games left, Atletico de Kolkata are on 14 points as they sit fifth in the Indian Super League standings, but coach Jose Molina reckons his side can book a place in the semi-finals, with their opponents on Sunday Chennaiyin FC, FC Pune City NorthEast United FC and FC Goa all vying for playoff spots.
“I’m absolutely confident,” said Molina, who usually takes his time before answering questions, without a moment’s thought to the question of whether he foresaw his team in the knockout stages. “Nobody can say that they will surely be in the semi-finals. Anything can happen. Every coach is absolutely confident about the possibilities of being in the semi-finals. I’m confident in my team and the way we’re playing.”
With Kerala Blasters FC slumping to a morale-crushing 5-0 defeat at the hands of Mumbai City FC, Sunday’s winners can leapfrog them to secure a place in the playoff s zone. Asked who between Chennaiyin and Kolkata would claim the fourth and final spot, the Spanish gaffer diplomatically stated that even United and Goa were still in the mix.
“It’s not about Chennaiyin or Kolkata,” said Molina. “The teams are very close. After yesterday’s result [Pune City’s 4-3 win against Delhi Dynamos], teams have become even closer. We still have four matches to play while others have three. No team can now say that they will be in the semi-finals. Every one of us is confident. We have to fight to win the next few games. Anything can happen.”
Despite boasting the third best defensive record, defensive mistakes have not been rare this season. To the question of whether their frequent defensive mix-ups would cost them their chances of drubbing the defending champions, he said, “I think my defense makes mistakes sometimes. Chennaiyin’s defense makes mistakes. Delhi’s defense makes mistakes. Every team makes defensive mistakes. Sometimes, the opponents don’t take advantage of our mistakes while other times, they take advantage and score. That’s football. I have absolute confidence in my defenders.
“We must play in our way. We must control the game. We must avoid mistakes as Chennai can take advantage of that. We will have to give our 100 percent in the game. We should be intense and tight in attack as well as defense and play the way we do.”
Despite being the most consistent team in the ISL, the Marina Machans boast a sloppy record against Kolkata as they have a meagre 14 percent win record against them. However, Molina’s regime began only this season, with former Kolkata coach Antonio Habas finding a new home in Pune. Although Chennaiyin are certain to face a mental block, he played down the influence of the head-to-head record.
“I don’t like to live in the past,” claimed Molina. “I live in the present. Past is past. Kolkata have lost in Chennai before. To win tomorrow, we have to play well tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what Kolkata and the previous coach have done in the past. For me, I’ll have to guide my team to win tomorrow.”
Regarding injuries to his players, the former Villarreal manager stated that Sameegh Doutie, who missed the previous game with a hamstring injury, would miss the high-profile game whilst he refused to say whether Helder Postiga would be involved.
Chennaiyin manager Marco Materazzi has been experimenting different setups since the start of the league but, on Tuesday night, it looked as though he had finally discovered the match-winning formula as he deployed a somewhat defensive 4-2-2-2 set-up. The 46-year-old Kolkata manager lauded their defense and attack, stating their statistics could be deemed a misrepresentation of their real strength.
“I think Chennai is strong as a team. They have talented players and a good defensive setup. The number of goals they have scored so far may say they are not so strong while, in fact, they are. They conceded seven goals against Delhi. In the rest of the games, they had conceded a very few. They defend intensely. In their last match against Pune, they played really well. Strikers and defenders played in a different way than before. They did a good job,” concluded Molina.
Photo © ISL Media
Report by Khel Now Correspondent from Chennai Praveen R. Paramasivam