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We need to prepare this match as any league match, claims Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Lopez Habas

Published at :April 21, 2024 at 7:53 PM
Modified at :April 21, 2024 at 7:53 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL media)

Uttiyo Sarkar

Antonio Lopez Habas praised Odisha FC and their coach ahead of the ISL semi-final clash.

Mohun Bagan aim to get their first win over Odisha FC in the 2023-24 Indian Super League (ISL) season in the first leg of the semi-final at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. The stakes are high as the League Winners’ Shield winners have the chance to progress to the final and double their title haul.

On the other hand, Odisha FC will look to pour water on Mohun Bagan’s title hopes and secure a place for themselves in the final, as they play their first semi-final in ISL history. Antonio Lopez Habas spoke to the media before an exciting clash. Let’s dive deep into the excerpts:

Head-to-head record against Odisha

Despite winning the ISL League Winners’ Shield, the Mariners head into this match after having failed to win any game against Odisha in the league so far this season. Antonio Habas was asked about this and he replied, “For me, the past is not one to think about. I have to live in the present. Odisha are a very difficult opponent because they have a good coach, they have players with experience and it will be a difficult match for us.

“We need to prepare for this match as any league match, we need to win this match in the 90 minutes. We can’t think about the second leg, that is how we think about it. This semi-final is very difficult to win in the first leg, but we should not lose it in the first match. We have to play the match with the same responsibility as we did for any league game and we need to win it in 90 minutes to be the first in the league,” Habas added.

Weather’s role in upcoming match & complacency issues

When questioned on whether the humid weather can play a part in influencing the performance of his team in the match, Antonio Lopez Habas answered, “We only have one solution for the players to get implemented into the weather. The circumstances are the same for the opponents as it’s for us. But, we are professionals, we need to play on this day in Odisha for the semi-final and the competition is non-stop. There is no excuse for this situation, but it will have a physical influence on the performance of the players. Physically, you can’t have a bad performance and it’s important to look into the tactical and technical aspects of the performance too.”

Antonio Lopez Habas insists that he spoke to his players about not growing complacent after winning and the need to push for the playoff title. He explained, “The problem in this situation, I spoke to the players in training is the relaxation. Because you think that we won the League Winners’ Shield and now the cup is there – the competition is coming for the team immediately. I have the responsibility to motivate the players in this situation, this is my work now. Now in training, it’s practically impossible to improve some things, now it’s more important to be more intelligent in playing the future matches.”

Sahal Abdul Samad’s situation

The tactician also delivered the bright news that Sahal Abdul Samad is fully fit again and that he has his entire squad available for the matches ahead, saying, “Sahal is 100%. We have the entire squad available to play in this match. That is very difficult to go into the last matches with all the players available. Only Ashique (Kuruniyan) has a long-term injury and he can’t play.”

Feelings on Odisha FC’s in-form players

When asked about how he plans to stop the in-form Odisha FC players, like his ex-player Roy Krishna, Antonio Lopez Habas answered, “The opponents have experienced players and it evidently won’t be an easy match. But, I have a lot of confidence in my team as we also have good players. In football, the balance between our characteristics and our problems can sometimes be a problem.

“We have an idea from the beginning to go for the win from the first minute, no speculation and no other things. I love Roy Krishna but now he is my opponent. I will hug him after the match, but now my interest is in my team. In football, there are no friends when it comes to opponents,” Antonio Lopez Habas added.

Importance of returning home with big result

Antonio Lopez Habas also insisted on the importance of Mohun Bagan getting a positive result for the second leg and how a solid performance can keep the opposition’s home fans quiet in the first leg. He remarked, “Again, we can’t improve or work on that (opposition fans). I’m not Odisha’s head coach, I’m Mohun Bagan’s head coach. We need to play the second match in Kolkata because if we have a good score heading into the second leg, I’m sure the support will be fantastic in the Kolkata match.

“We have to play in Odisha and these circumstances against this opponent. You have the mentality to play 90 minutes, you have to win and keep focused on winning from the beginning,” he added.

Urges team to maintain commitment levels

Finally, Habas dismissed indications of Odisha having a slight drop in form in recent weeks and instead urged his team to maintain their peak commitment levels for this clash. He stated, “Football is different from one season to another season and one match to another match. It’s not important because the players are professionals and now the mentality is different.

“It’s very important to keep this winning attitude, keep committed and be dedicated to the team at this time. We need to maintain this attitude. Now, fortunately, we have the commitment within our team which I’m very happy with. My team’s commitment is at 100% which is the best thing a coach can ask for,” Habas concluded.

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