The Spaniard also opened up on the level of refereeing so far in ISL 2021-22.

ATK Mohun Bagan are determined to get revenge in their next game against title rivals Mumbai City in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Wednesday. Antonio Habas’ side lost all three games to the Islanders last season, something which must still haunt the Spaniard.

But, the experienced manager seems relaxed ahead of the big clash. He didn’t let any signs of nervousness be shown in his pre-match press interaction which took place on Tuesday.

Thoughts on Mumbai City game

The Mariners picked up a commendable win against SC East Bengal in their last game. When asked about whether he’s worried about overconfidence creeping into his team’s minds before the next game, Antonio Habas said, “I would say it’s very important to win every game. It’s good to raise the confidence of the players, thinking about positive thoughts and the team is growing with every win – rather than draws or losses. It’s very important to go and get three points from every game. The most important thing is to get used to winning.”

Mumbai City are heading into this game in some shaky form, having lost their last game to Hyderabad FC. But, Habas doesn’t feel that gives ATKMB an advantage in their plot for revenge, saying, “No, I think it’s an absolutely different game. Mumbai City have got a new coach and new players in some positions. The basic idea is that Mumbai might seem like the same threat as everyone else, but that’s not the same for me.

“They don’t have weaknesses in defence and have changed some stuff from last season. I think we know some things about the opponent, but every match is absolutely different. I think Mumbai are a good team, but ATKMB are also a good team. Now, it’s time to make the difference in the 90 minutes,” he added.

Areas of improvement & wing-back situation

Despite having a near-flawless start, Antonio Habas insists that there are certain areas of improvement for the Mariners. He explained, “All teams have possibilities to improve themselves with every game. The idea is to improve and keep the situation stable, not to lose momentum. We have to be more offensive in games because we have one line of five players in attack all the time. We have to balance and compensate to try and attack with the defence. For that, we need to improve our transitions from defence to attack or from attack to defence.”

Manvir Singh and Liston Colaco are operating as wing-backs in this ATKMB setup, doing quite well so far too. When asked about his role in helping them adapt to the new roles, Habas said, “I think that we have to two more good players in the bench in (Michael) Soosairaj and Prabir (Das) who can also play there. It’s an important position for our style, but we have the possible players to rotate things around. Maybe, in other games, we’ll play Prabir or Soosairaj.

“I think that Manvir and Liston have a good level in Indian football. Every day they have the possibility to go with the team in the match. For me, the idea is that they are too very good players in Indian football,” he further stated.

However, the Spanish tactician doesn’t believe experienced defenders Pritam Kotal or Subashish Bose have allowed the two wing-backs to excel. He explained, “They play in a similar yet different role. They have the possibility to play as full-backs when we transition to a four-man backline, they play as centre-backs when we go narrow and wing-backs when we have three or five defenders.

“The more versatile a player for me, the more important he is. You have one player who can cover 3-4 positions, that’s very important. Not just one player who is a specialist in one position, but I like players who can play in different situations in different games,” he quipped.

Possible formation change & Tiri update

Antonio Habas still remains coy when discussing his tactics and when asked about a possible change in formation in the long run, he replied, “We have the possibility to play with some players in different positions. That’s good for me because it opens the performance of the team. Last season, we changed our system of play for 7-8 matches. This season, the idea is to keep the situation in check and after that change depending on opponents, depending on the matches and our situation.”

The Spaniard also gave an update on injured defender Tiri, adding: “Tiri is coming back in one more week. We have the possibility to go into the next week with a fully fit squad. He’s theonly play in this situation.”

Thoughts on ISL referees & room for improvement in ATKMB finishing

When asked about the controversial topic of his thoughts on the refereeing level in the ISL this season, Habas said, “Now, I think they are trying to be more competitive referees. We have to respect and support them. Because the position of a referee is very difficult in a match. I have only one proposal, which is to help them.”

Finally, Antonio Habas was asked about whether he sees ATKMB improving their finishing as the season wears on. He answered, “It’s not possibility to win every game by 6-7 goals. That’s impossible. The biggest clubs in the world, they win by the margin of 2-3 goals maximum generally, maybe scoring five goals one day.

You have to find the balance between the attack and defence. Don’t worry, the score doesn’t matter for me. Just win the match and then we’ll think about other possibilities,” he signed off.

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