The interim coach explained that the players understand the seriousness of the games ahead.

NorthEast United would like to continue their unbeaten run in to the Indian Super League playoffs as well as they prepare to face ATK Mohun Bagan in the first-leg. The Highlanders would go into the tie full of confidence after not having lost in their last nine fixtures, winning six of them. On the other hand, the Mariners would like to make amends after losing the top spot and as well as a berth in the AFC Champions League to Mumbai City FC in the last match of the league stage. Ahead of their match against ATKMB, NorthEast United coach Khalid Jamil and assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew spoke to the media.

On ATK Mohun Bagan

The NorthEast United coach was full of praise for his opponents on Saturday. “We are going to play tomorrow with a good team. ATKMB are a good side. Defensively strong, attacking also strong. We have to be very careful because the first match is very important.”

The 43-year old further added, “Individually they are good. As a team also they are good with a good coach. So we have to be very careful and need to start positive. Not to take this match lightly, it is a very serious game. It will be a very difficult game. We have to fight for everything.”

Importance of the game

On being asked about the mood of the team after making it to the playoffs, the former Mohun Bagan coach stated, “Everybody is fine and in good mood. They know the seriousness of this match. It is a semi-final and we are going to play two matches. They are very serious about it.”

Credit to the players

After successfully qualifying for the playoffs with NorthEast United, Khalid Jamil has a maintained his reputation of being successful with teams that are considered underdogs, having previously won the I-League with Aizawl FC. On being asked on how he manages to do that, he said, “Talking about this, coming to the semi-finals, this all goes to the boys. They worked very hard, all the players. Because of them we have reached the semi-finals, there is no doubt.”

“I didn’t have anything, I just told them to play their natural game. Just play with confidence, if you do mistakes, no problem, go ahead, try again but don’t give up. So this is small information, looking at everything it is about the players. They have done everything and I am very proud to be their coach,” explained Khalid Jamil.

ISL is more challenging

The Highlanders’ coach has now managed both in the I-League and the ISL. On being asked to make comparison between coaching in the two leagues, the 43-year-old stated, “As I said before, in ISL they have quality coaches, players also of good quality. Looking at this season, there was a lot of competition. So it was very tough. With I-League also, there is no difference. But in ISL, the challenge is higher and we enjoy it. The organization, they have done a good job, specially this year. So there is a difference, but in the end football is the same.”

Alison Kharsyntiew

Accompanying the NorthEast United coach was his assistant Alison Kharsyntiew. The 34-year-old gave an update on Provat Lakra’s situation. “He (Lakra) has been resting at the moment. The medical team has been working really hard for him, for his treatment. Hopefully, he will be okay and can get back to the field as soon as possible.”

The former Shillong Lajong boss also spoke about how it felt to play an entire season inside a bio bubble. “As time goes by, we adapt to the situation. It is hard to be in the bubble, but we took it in a positive way. The players were responsible, taking care of themselves. Sometimes the club, we organized some team activities just for them to engage and for team cohesion. Everyone is doing a good job and taking care of themselves,” he concluded.

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