The Spaniard wants to focus on the game and not referees…

FC Pune City have bounced back after a poor start to their campaign, with two back-to-back wins against Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC. Knowing a third consecutive win will catapult them to the second spot, Antonio Habas will look to claim Chennaiyin FC’s scalp at all costs when they meet at Marina Arena on Tuesday night.

The Stallions have fared poorly against Chennaiyin having never won against them; however, the City gaffer can keep his chin up having defeated Marco Materazzi’s side in his last two ISL games, during his Kolkata stint. When quizzed about tomorrow’s game, he said: “All the teams have expectations to qualify for the playoff stages; even Chennaiyin aspire to be there. It could be a tough match tomorrow. With just a few games left, we’ll be facing a very strong Chennaiyin team.”

The Indian Super League, despite being branded the premium football tournament in the country, has been receiving criticism from left and right. The City manager added insult to injury when he stated that players and coaches hardly get ample time to ready themselves for the three-month intensive tournament.

“It’s very difficult for the new players, and even more so for the coach as building a strong team in one and half months is no mean feat,” hypothesized Habas. “You need more time. Moving to a new team and a new city, the last few weeks have been difficult for me as well as the team.”

Habas’ Chennaiyin counterpart earned a one-game suspension on the back of allegedly sparking a tussle after the whistle in the Kerala Blasters FC game on 29th October . The Spanish gaffer stated his desire to shun away from such controversy and to see the pundits only discuss the game after the full-time whistle in Chennai.

“I’ll expect my team to play a high intensity game,” claimed Habas. “I know Chennai very well having played against them in the first two seasons, and I also have a great relationship with Marco Materazzi. However, after the game, I hope to not to discuss what happens off the pitch or after the whistle as I think the emphasis should be on the game. There was some controversy in the last Chennai home game, but I’d like to concentrate only on what happens on the pitch.”

The Maharashtra-based club sorely missed Eugenson Lyngdoh, with the Indian international missing the first eight games of the campaign due to his Bengaluru FC duties. He made a quick impact upon his return to the City camp as he scored the only goal in the 1-0 away victory over local rivals Mumbai. The City coach acknowledged his prominence but refused to brand him the most important player.

“Eugenson Lyngdoh is a big name in India but, for us, he is not more important than any other player in the team,’ stated Habas. “The responsibility should be divided amongst everyone on the pitch. Of course, he can be a serious goal threat, but he is just as important as anyone in the squad.”

The quality of refereeing in the ISL has been a subject of debate, but the former Valencia CF manager elected not to criticize the ISL referees. He said: “Referees are also human beings. They also make mistakes and I understand that. In the past, we have suffered because of wrong refereeing decisions, but we have to focus only on our games. Referees are also a part of the game.”

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