The Mariners face Chennaiyin FC on the back of two consecutive defeats on Saturday.
ATK Mohun Bagan are aiming to recover from their recent slump in the Indian Super League (ISL) and return to winning ways against an undefeated Chennaiyin FC side. Antonio Habas’ squad are going into the game on the back of successive defeats and are under extreme pressure to get results.
The Mariners started their ISL 2021-22 campaign with thrilling wins over Kerala Blasters and SC East Bengal in the Kolkata Derby. However, they have since been thrashed by defending champions Mumbai City FC and lost to Jamshedpur FC in their last game. Despite the setback, Habas remains confident of turning things around and is thinking of the positives from all four games.
Here are the excerpts from Antonio Habas’ pre-match press conference.
Thoughts on current form and Chennaiyin FC game
Coming into the Chennaiyin FC game with back-to-back losses, Habas is still confident of turning things around at ATK Mohun Bagan. “I’m 100% confident that we can get turn things around soon. It’s the opposite situation for us because the first two matches were great results, but now the tides have turned. Maybe now the good ways are coming back. This is my idea, thinking about the positives about the team rather than the negatives,” he said.
The Spaniard is respectful of Chennaiyin FC and spoke about them admirably saying, “I think Chennaiyin is a competitive team. They have good foreign players, competitive players. They play good physical football. I agree that it’ll be a difficult game because they haven’t conceded too many goals yet. It’ll be a competitive match!”
Antonio Habas also spoke about what he’ll demand from his players to get back to winning ways against Chennaiyin, as he said, “We have to find the balance between different matches and different times in the match. If we have a correct 45 minutes and then be incorrect in the next 45 minutes, that won’t work. We have to find the ideal situation for competing at this level.”
Despite having such a decorated attacking lineup, ATK Mohun Bagan have only scored two goals in as many of their last few games. When asked about whether this is a psychological issue, Habas said, “We have to talk about the balance. In the first two matches, we were the best teams in the world because we scored seven goals in two matches. And now we’re suddenly not that good because we couldn’t!
“The idea is the balance in our behaviour. It’s like we’ve been both the best club in the world and the worst club in the world in the last 10 days. What football in India needs is balance, this is my idea.”
ATKMB’s rivals SC East Bengal picked up a draw against Chennaiyin FC in the Marina Machans’ last game. But Habas isn’t favoring his team’s chances just based on that. “Never are two matches the same. East Bengal are another team and we are a different team. It’s never the same. It’s complete different matches for two different teams, in my opinion,” he responded.
Message to players and squad rotation
Speaking about what’s been his message to the players after the two successive losses, the Spaniard said, “I’ve told them that they have to be confident in their playing style. For me, my players are the best in the league and the best in the world. I have to give them the confidence to continue their careers,” he quipped.
“This has been a long career for them at ATK Mohun Bagan and very hard competition because we have been in a bubble for the past two seasons. It’s very difficult for professionals to share the same sensation every day. We have to win the competition and we have to demonstrate that we’re the best. That’s what we have to do,” he added.
Habas also gave an exciting update on Tiri, insisting that there are ‘no more injuries’ in the squad and that the defender is available for selection again. The Spaniard also hinted at rotating his squad for the next few games, adding, “We have a difficult run ahead, with games after four-five days after tomorrow’s one, so we need all the players prepared. Maybe one player can play four matches continuously and then be rested for the next match. We have to play with this team to compete at a high level throughout the season.”
Defensive troubles and underperforming players
Despite ATK Mohun Bagan conceding seven goals in their last two matches, Habas isn’t just worried about his defensive troubles. “My worry isn’t just about the defence, but both the attack and defence! My team are a competitive side in focusing on the transitions from attack to defence or defence to attack. It’s our idea. We have to get the team to complete games strongly. It’s not a case of playing well for just 45 minutes or short periods of 10-30 minutes. We have to compete throughout the 90 minutes!” he explained.
Antonio Habas also didn’t want to speak about ATK Mohun Bagan’s inability to get a leader in their defence after Sandesh Jhingan’s departure. “Comparison in football is not good. Sandesh is not here now. I only want to speak about my players now,” he said.
The ATKMB tactician is tired of comparisons between his side’s performances last season with what has happened so far this season. Talking about Roy Krishna’s apparent dip, he responded, “Last season is last season! This is a new season and we were thinking about here and now!”
The ATK Mohun Bagan boss was quizzed regarding why the Mariners are struggling during set-piece situations and moving the ball through the wings this season.
“This is your opinion. In my opinion, in the matches, we play pretty well on the flanks. It’s not that easy because the opponents also have competitive players as the full-backs, they are not mannequins. The opponent doesn’t want that our condition is good during the match. There’s no worry with this situation,” he concluded.