The Spaniard spoke about his side’s preparations ahead of the clash against ATK Mohun Bagan on Sunday.

Mumbai City FC will face ATK Mohun Bagan at the GMC Stadium of 28th February for the final showdown of the league phase of the seventh season of the Indian Super League (ISL). The Islanders require nothing less than three points to claim the top spot and qualify for the AFC Champions League. However, they have a stellar opposition in front of them who themselves are in the quest for a similar prize. Head coach Sergio Lobera and striker Bartholomew Ogbeche addressed the press ahead of Sunday’s game.

Tackling threat of Roy Krishna

Roy Krishna has been terrific for the Mariners, netting 14 times in 19 games and occupying the top spot in the goalscorers’ charts. He will pose a potent threat to Mumbai’s defensive line on Sunday, something that has been a cause of concern for the Islanders in the last few games.

Commenting on negotiating Krishna’s threat, Sergio Lobera said, “I think tomorrow is not possible to win the game only with one player or two players. I think we need to work as a team. We need collective work and I am sure the team that will win tomorrow will be the best team, not the best players the team have.”

He added, “Because, you know, it’s I think going to be a very equal game. Smaller things are very important. We need the collective job. I know they have very good players like Krishna, but we have very good players also and finally the team works better as a team. It’s not only about the individual situations.”

Strengths & weaknesses of ATK Mohun Bagan

Mumbai and the Mariners have battled neck-to-neck for the top spot throughout the campaign. The metropolis club edged out Antonio Habas’ men 1-0 in their face-off earlier this season. Asked to reveal some of the strengths and weaknesses of ATKMB that his team could exploit, Lobera stated, “I think the most important thing is ourselves. We need to think about ourselves. We need to think about what is possible to improve in ourselves.

“Obviously, we are playing against a very good team. They are doing a very good job, but the most important thing is to put our focus on ourselves.”

Mental perspective towards game

The previous encounter between the two teams was a relatively low-scoring one with Ogbeche bagging the only goal. In that perspective, Sergio Lobera was asked about whether he expects a high-scoring match on Sunday. The coach was also probed about the outlook with which he expects the team to approach the all-important game.

Elaborating on the same, the Spaniard said, “I think this is the past and the past doesn’t affect the future. I think the context of the game is different. Tomorrow is a crucial game. In the first game, it’s one game more with three points. Tomorrow is a final. We need to play to win the game and we need to manage well this situation because it’s not like the games we played before. It’s not about three points. It’s about to win a final and we need to win the game. I think it’s not possible to compare the first match and tomorrow’s game.”

Additionally, Lobera explained, “Obviously, we are living in a real situation. We are living in a bubble, but we know how crucial is tomorrow’s game. We know it’s not possible to hide this. But, the control of emotions is very important because finally your performance depends on this situation. High motivation is maybe good, less motivation is not good. We need to manage the level of motivation, to try to do our best. But, my players obviously have a lot of motivation because big efforts have gone before. Tomorrow is a good opportunity for us to achieve our targets. Control of emotions is very important in tomorrow’s game.”

Have ATKMB become stronger since January?

ATKMB are on a six-game unbeaten run currently. They bolstered their already terrific squad through the additions of Marcelinho and Lenny Rodrigues in the January transfer window. Sergio Lobera believes that these transfers enabled them to become more competitive, but also stated that they already had a strong squad.

“I agree. I think they are two very important players for ATKMB. They have more balance and have increased their level after they signed these players. But, they have a very good team, not only the last two players they signed. I think they have a very strong team and I think they improve the level compared with the last season. I think both teams deserve to arrive to the last game with our options and it’s going to be an amazing game,” the 44-year-old remarked.

Bartholomew Ogbeche on importance of strikes

Bartholomew Ogbeche has played around 400 minutes lesser than his counterpart Adam le Fondre this season. However, the Nigerian marksman has netted seven times including important goals against the likes of ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC and a brace against Odisha FC in the last game. His strikes have come in games that carry immense significance. In that context, Ogbeche was quizzed whether he should have played more minutes in this campaign.

The striker said, “For me, every game is crucial. Every team, I treat the same way. You have to respect teams if you want to earn your respect. You have to respect every team and prepare for games with the best way possible. I prepare the same way if I am playing ATKMB, NorthEast, Odisha or any team. The fact that my goals that you say are very important, that’s what as a striker you always wish for. I count more the importance of my goals than how many goals I get to score. Do I feel I should have played more? I always want to play every game. There’s no doubt about that. But, we have one boss which is the coach and he has to take decisions.”

He explained, “If I haven’t played much more, it’s not because I haven’t done much, it’s because the coach has decisions to make and he thinks in one game it’s best to start with a different player. The fact is I always want to play more. But, I cannot publicly judge the coach’s decisions. If I have anything to say I always go to them. In this case, I am lucky that we have a coach who is very open and someone you can speak to. But, the fact is that I always want to play every game and when I don’t see myself in the starting lineup, of course it’s always disappointing.”  

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