The Mariners need one point to confirm a playoffs berth.

Out of the playoffs contention, Chennaiyin FC are already looking to next season to salvage themselves. But before that, they would want to secure as a high a finish as possible when they face title contenders and top-four side ATK Mohun Bagan. The Marina Machans are currently on a six-match winless run and would want halt in the two games remaining. However, Sabir Pasha is looking at the positives and learning from this season. ATKMB coach Juan Ferrando is more focused on the job at hand – beat Chennaiyin FC and secure a playoffs spot.

The Mariners are at third in the points table with 34 points from 18 games and need one more point from two more games to assure themselves a top-four spot. Ahead of the match, coaches Sabir Pasha and Juan Ferrando spoke at the pre-match press conference and shared their thoughts.

Chennaiyin FC coach Sabir Pasha

How do you evaluate the season?

Sabir Pasha: The results show that we have not done well. There are many areas where we need to improve, especially in defence. We cannot concede so many goals. We have shown that sometimes even after conceding we can come back. But with bigger scorelines it is difficult. We have identified some loopholes this year and we need to strengthen those.

Reasons behind Chennaiyin FC scoring least number of goals?

Sabir Pasha: We were conceding a lot of goals so we were improving our defence. That way, we had to play a formation that doesn’t suit us, but we played in that formation to defend properly. We kept conceding goals and that was the biggest problem because we couldn’t get up the pitch. In the last few games, we created chances but we were unlucky to not get some goals.

Positives from this season?

Sabir Pasha: In terms of positives, I would say the team really came out well from defeats. It is not easy but the team has stood positively during the losses. The teams came together to try to address every game.

The players have their best every single game so I think that is positive. Even though things aren’t going their way, the players are giving everything.

How do you evaluate the performance of Indian players at Chennaiyin FC?

Sabir Pasha: The youngsters like Rahim Ali, Suhail (Pasha) and Ninthoi (Meetei) have done well. (Rahim) Ali has shown great progress, we know he is a strong player, but he needs to have more composure. He has to play more and start more.

We saw that when he (Rahim Ali) starts, he is a different player and when he comes from the bench he is a different player. He has shown some good signs but he also knows where he needs to improve. He has provided stability to the team and can be an asset wherever he plays.

As for Ninthoi and Suhail, I think they both need to play more and start more matches. Maybe they will get that in the future, this is just the beginning. So they need to get more experience to play at this level. They have shown promise and I hope they carry on and gain more experience and do well.

Type of players Chennaiyin FC should target for next season?

Sabir Pasha: I think the most important thing that we lacked on our side was the pace. We lacked pace in the midfield and we need to work on improving that. Also we need to improve in the final third. We had problems all over the park.

Need to have a formidable side that will compete. We will see in that way. It is not only about the youngsters but it is about who can match and stand up to this level of football. So once we strengthen our midfield and our attack, we need to go for strong players who can show aggression and eagerness to have the ball or win it back.

ATK Mohun Bagan coach Juan Ferrando

Chances of topping the league stage?

Juan Ferrando: “Well now I think the most important is to win against Chennaiyin tomorrow, to get all 3 points and give them the utmost respect. It’s not necessary to think about next Monday because the most important thing now is to think about Chennaiyin.”

If Jamshedpur FC were lucky to win against Hyderabad FC?

Juan Ferrando: “Everyone knows that it’s not possible to postpone matches anymore. I remember one month ago when we had to play FC Goa in a difficult moment, our case was similar with that of Hyderabad. The ISL decides it’s not possible to postpone games. We need to take control about everything, not give an excuse, not hold training to our maximum.

I think it’s the same for all teams, in our case it was 4-5 games ago and for Hyderabad it was yesterday. It’s 100% disappointing, but if you look at the European leagues it’s the same. Barcelona had so many Covid cases a few weeks ago, Athletic Bilbao played against Real Madrid with many cases and even Tottenham struggled with it a few weeks. It’s disappointing because I know it’s the most important moment for Hyderabad, when you can’t choose the perfect lineup because of COVID.

It’s not good, but in this case, I think the solution is very difficult all the time. Maybe if you decide to postpone the match, it could be problematic for the other teams and if you don’t decide to postpone the match.. well it’s difficult. The solution is against one team all the time.”

Thoughts on Chennaiyin FC

Juan Ferrando: “I think that Chennaiyin have very strong midfielders, they have hard-working ones in Anirudh Thapa and Vladimir Koman. They have strong players in some moments of the game. Also I think everyone knows about the ability of Nerijus Valskis. Of course this season might not have been the best for him, but he’s a dangerous player inside the box and outside the box. In the last 3 games, he’s been more close to the box than in the last month.

He’s a dangerous player because during all the crosses, he knows the best positions for him. The defence of Chennaiyin is very good, they’re a good team with a lot of control of the space very good and they take time to take the ball and their transitions are very good.

Are players suffering from fatigues becuase of close games?

Juan Ferrando: “This is the problem. It’s difficult to prepare the teams because the time is very short between games. For example, we’ll play tomorrow (Thursday) and then in another two days time we’ll play against Jamshedpur on Saturday. To be honest, now it’s to try to play and recovery well before games. I hope before the AFC Cup we can prepare with a nice pre-season.”

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