The Mariners head into the crucial match without a win in their last two games.

ATK Mohun Bagan will look to extend their 3-0 winning record in the Indian Super League Kolkata Derby, when they take on SC East Bengal in the latest match on Saturday. The Mariners have won each of the opening three Kolkata Derbies in the ISL since SCEB joined the league last season. A win tomorrow can take Juan Ferrando’s side into the top four. They will also have a game in hand when compared to the other rivals for the playoffs spots.

But, Ferrando’s side are winless in their last two matches, having drawn against Hyderabad FC and Odisha. There was an 18-day gap between those two games, with ATKMB also withstanding a COVID outbreak in their camp, which also saw three of their games being postponed. Ahead of the important Kolkata Derby clash, Juan Ferrando shared his thoughts at the pre-match press conference.

What are your feelings on being part of the Kolkata Derby?

Juan Ferrando: Of course, I’m happy because for me in the end it’s a pleasure in these games. You have a great opportunity to be part of this team and to participate in this big game. We understand in the end our target is to get three points, our target is to improve in our style, improve in some points and it’s necessary not to lose focus. Of course, it’s an emotional game, but we should never lose our focus.

Can we expect to see Roy Krishna play full 90 minutes in derby?

Juan Ferrando: We’ll see. We need time. Of course, I’m upset because the last weeks for Roy (Krishna) were very difficult. He was closed in one room all the time with his baby and wife. When he tested positive for COVID, it was very difficult for him. But, we trust him 100%. He’s a good player, an amazing player and really important in the dressing room. We need him, but it’s sometimes necessary to protect players because the most important thing for me is that one player rather not play 90 minutes in one game, than play a full game and then be injured for 2-3 weeks.

Thoughts on East Bengal?

Juan Ferrando: in the end, I think East Bengal will change a lot. In the start of the season, it was different than now. My feelings about East Bengal, about the last few games I saw, I think the players are more free, the team is more or less more compact and they push hard. It won’t be an easy game. Of course, many people are talking that they’re not performing well. They had a poor first half of the season, but they’re pushing, they’re working. My point of view now is that the East Bengal supporters are happy with their team’s recent performances.

How do you plan to use foreigners for derby?

Juan Ferrando: My plan is there in my mind. For me, I’m happy when all the foreign players are ready and also the local players. The most important thing is that there are 29 players in our squad. Of course, Avilash (Paul) is out with a bad injury. But, the rest of the players are ready to help the team and push the team forward. It’s not easy because of the COVID-19 problems, risk of injury. At this moment, the players are ready to help the team with every step. They’re not performing to their best because of the COVID-19 isolation thing for 12 days, but they’re improving step-by-step.

Concerns over team not making progress in last two games?

Juan Ferrando: My point of view is that we’ve improved a lot in our position in attacks. Our problem is in transitions. When the team is playing in attack, it’s necessary to take risky passes because that’s normal. But, another point for me is the transitions, that everyone needs to work on this point and close down areas quicker for the opposition players. If you watch the Premier League, you’ll see a lot of goals are conceded by teams because of their inability to defend in the transitions.

But, I’m so happy because it’s a very difficult moment. I give this information to the fans, we’re in a very difficult moment. The players are inside of their rooms all the time and then in the last three weeks they changed all the methodology and training regime. It’s not so easy, but the most important thing for me is the players are trying to do their best.

Does East Bengal’s 0-4 loss in their last game and ATKMB’s draw against Odisha put them in advantage position?

Juan Ferrando: In the end, I think this season is difficult to talk about. It’s very important for everyone to treat every game as a different one. In this case, we need to take into regard the emotional state. In the last game, East Bengal against Hyderabad, two details changed the score. Like for the last game between Odisha and Hyderabad, Odisha were attacking really well at 1-1 and then in one moment the goalkeeper’s and defenders lapses meant it was 3-1 in two minutes. We’re ready for stuff like this because it’s difficult to know what happens. The emotional feelings are necessary to control, but it’s difficult.

Have you watched any Kolkata Derbies?

Juan Ferrando: Yes, in the last year when I came to India and watched a lot of FC Goa games. I watched a lot of different games, of Kerala Blasters and Chennaiyin. For me, it was difficult because I watched games with fans in the stadiums. At this moment, I had a great opportunity because I saw Mohun Bagan’s game against East Bengal that happened two years ago. That was incredible.

I’m happy that in this season’s Durand Cup, I had the opportunity to be in the Salt Lake Stadium. That’s an amazing stadium. I know that it was the final of the Durand Cup and only 30% or so supporters were allowed, but the atmosphere was amazing. For me, it’s a dream to see ATK Mohun Bagan play against SC East Bengal in the Salt Lake Stadium with a 100% attendance. It’ll absolutely be a great atmosphere and a great experience for me.

What is your message for ATKMB fans?

Juan Ferrando: My message is that we want to do our best. I know the emotions of our supporters. I know we’re not in the best moment in our performance, as it’s with all the teams. We’ll focus and tomorrow when we’re on the pitch, we’ll do the best for our fans. Because I know a lot of people are hoping for a big result and I hope things go our way.

If you win your first Kolkata Derby, how will you celebrate the win?

Juan Ferrando: To be honest, my thoughts are to get three points and then start preparations against Mumbai. My dream is to win the league. My dream is to be in the AFC Champions League because that’s an amazing experience. I’ll look to get a win against SC East Bengal and then start to prepare against Mumbai City. But, I hope our supporters can enjoy their Saturday night if we win.

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