The Spaniard said Indian players need better facilities to improve…

Atlético de Kolkata head coach Jose Molina has braced himself for a tough fight against Kerala Blasters FC as both teams take the field in the final of the 2016 Hero Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday evening. The match will be a repeat of the 2014 Hero ISL final when ATK pipped the Blasters 1-0 to claim the trophy. Molina, whose team beat Mumbai City FC in the semi-finals 3-2 on aggregate to reach their second final in three years, addressed the media ahead of the game and shared his thoughts. “I respect all the teams and I think Kerala had a great season and I am sure tomorrow will be a tough match and we will fight till the end,” Molina told reporters.

The 46-year-old Spaniard also assessed his team’s season that saw them finish the league stage in fourth position. “It has been a great experience and the results were not so great in the beginning but we were [mostly] in the top four and the owners, management and players have done a great job and we have shown a great spirit,” he said.

ATK’s marquee man Helder Postiga, who has been crucial to his team’s fortunes with two goals and three assists this season, accompanied Molina to the press conference and made no bones about the fact that he was eyeing his first trophy with ATK. “The ISL has been good and I enjoy so much here and hope to make some good memories by lifting the trophy tomorrow. The first year was not so good because of the injury but I tomorrow I hope to lift the trophy,” the former Portugal international said.

All through this season, the Kochi stadium has seen in excess of 50,000 fans coming to the Blasters’ home games, one of the reasons behind Steve Coppell’s men’s resurgence in the second half of the league stage. Postiga, who injured himself in his team’s 1-0 win in Kochi earlier in the season – Kerala’s only loss at home this season – was excited at the prospect of playing in such a charged-up atmosphere again. “I expect a big atmosphere tomorrow and Kerala have improved a lot since our first match this season, with the players coming from Bengaluru FC making a big difference and I hope tomorrow will be a good game,” he said.

Molina toed his striker’s line on the matter before adding that playing in front of an army of yellow won’t be easy. “I am absolutely happy to be here and play in front of 60,000 thousand fans and of course I would prefer to play in Salt Lake with fans cheering for ATK but the most important is what happens inside the field and it is eleven against eleven, and who plays better will win,” he said.

“It will be a tough battle and both teams are strong and when the match starts we will see who plays well and any player can change the course of the game anytime.”

Postiga also gave a rave review of Kerala’s backline. “This Kerala team has shown how to play like a team and I think the best defenders are in Kerala and in the last game they did well.”

Into his second season with the 2014 champions, Postiga expressed satisfaction at the way the league was coming along. “I think there has been improvement since the first year and all the organisations are doing well and the league can also improve with more teams and more quality players and I hope this can happen.”

Responding to a question as to why the Indian strikers weren’t as effective as some of the local defenders and midfielders this season, Postiga said: “Maybe the strikers are not taking the opportunities but I think many strikers have shown a lot of improvement and there are also a lot of young strikers who are good and I hope Indian football will improve more.”

Molina said he too had no complaints from the Indian players but at the same time called for better facilities to improve the quality. The former Valencia goalkeeper also played down the unavailability of Kerala playmaker Josu Currais for tomorrow’s game on account of yellow card accumulation. “Of course, we know Kerala will be missing Josu but they have some good players and it is not about taking advantage based on one position and the most important thing is our team and how we play,” he said.

Report and Photo Courtesy: ISL Media