The former Blasters defender has his eyes set on the ISL title this time around.

Indian national team defender Sandesh Jhingan is all set to face his former club in the Indian Super League 2020-21 curtain-raiser, as Kerala Blasters take on arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan on 20th November. 

The 27-year-old centre-back joined the Kolkata giants this season in a big deal, as he decided to part ways with the Kochi-based outfit after representing the latter for six consecutive years. 

Now, that he has landed at the Kolkata giants, Jhingan seemed optimistic of touching the silverware this season, as he said, “Like all footballers, I also regret not being able to win the ISL till now. It’s painful for every athlete not to win the trophy even after reaching the final. I felt the same. That’s why I want to win the league with ATK Mohun Bagan and touch the trophy this time.”

Sandesh Jhingan further added, “I have come to Kolkata to touch two more goals, to qualify for the AFC Champions League next season and to do well in the AFC Cup this season. I really want to do well on the continental stage and all the people here at ATK Mohun Bagan also carry the same philosophy. Thus, I hope to achieve these goals together as a team.”

In the past, the Blasters have been a tough hurdle to overcome for the Antonio Lopez Habas-managed side, as the former emerged winners in both of their encounters against the Kolkata giants last season. In that context, Sandesh was asked about his thoughts on the Blasters and his expectations from the first match. He said, “Blasters coach and management will be the best persons to speak on it (smiles). For me it’s more exciting to grab a competitive match experience after so long.”

WATCH: ATK Mohun Bagan are one of the strongest and most balanced sides in the ISL

Sandesh Jhingan also added, “It is true that Kolkata didn’t have much success against Kerala in the last few years. But records are made to be broken. If you ask me regarding the aim in the first match, I can say, I want to grab full points and want to win the Kerala match like all other matches.”

Jhingan has been missing matches since last season, when he suffered an injury while playing against NorthEast United for the national team in a friendly. He has gone through rigorous rehab and training since then and is raring to go ahead of the new season. The ATKMB defensive general said, “I don’t want to look back. I have prepared myself to make a comeback this season. For me, match performance is the best place to prove yourself and I am confident of doing that.”

This is the first time Jhingan is going to play for a Kolkata team. Despite being a regular in the national team, the Punjab lad has never played for any clubs from the City of Joy. Thus, the upcoming Kolkata Derby in the ISL is a first of its kind for Jhingan. “I don’t feel any extra pressure,” he said.

“On the contrary, I am enjoying the opportunity to play for the best Kolkata club. It’s a fact that the responsibility has increased 100-fold. The countless Mariners have high expectations from me and I am here to take that on my shoulders. Making them happy is not just my goal, it is the sole aim of everyone in our team,” said Sandesh on being asked about his first derby and its pressure.

He further added, “There is no Indian footballer who does not want to play in this match. If I get a chance to play in the first derby of my life, I want to go back to the dressing room with full points.”

“The game will be 11 Vs 11. If we win, we will get three points just like any other match. But, this match is of huge importance and respect for our fellow fans. We have to play keeping that in mind. If we win the derby like the Kerala match, it will be a good start,” Sandesh Jhingan concluded.

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