Steve Coppell praises Bengaluru, Carles Cuadrat rues departure of John Johnson
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
The West Bengal outfit are yet to score a goal against the Blues.
After picking up a crucial win against defending champions Chennaiyin FC, ATK host the in-form Bengaluru, at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday. The last season’s runners-up have had a great start to the season, winning two out of their three games so far. However, Steve Coppell’s men will be looking to halt their dominant run and pick up another important win to keep afloat in the playoffs race.
Here is what the coaches had to say prior to the big game:
Steve Coppell (ATK)
The English gaffer knows his side need a clean-sheet in this season
Coppell was first asked on whether he feels winning against two teams like Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin at home, back to back is crucial for their campaign. He said, “No I don’t think so. I think they’re two good teams obviously, as they are finalists from last year. I think Bengaluru is the yard-stick. You judge yourself by Bengaluru. They were the champions of the league stage last year. They started very well this year. We’re excited to play against them and judge ourselves against a good side.”
When he was asked on whether he feels ATK have gotten the momentum they looked for, or is there gaps still to be filled, Coppell said, “Well, we’re always looking to improve. We review every game and look for the things we could’ve done better. I don’t think one win at home is momentum at all. I think it’s just one win in isolation."
“In the ISL, it’s always difficult to win at home. Our aim is to win again. We practised hard this week for this, and we’re going into the game with anticipation. We’re looking forward to playing the match. The crowd last time was great and we hope to repay them with another win,” he added.
Coppell was asked on whether he feels the ISL is more competitive than any another season this time. He explained, “It’s too early to say. I think that after six games, one-third of the season, then you can make a judgment call. I think at this early stage a couple of teams are starting to break away. I think everyone else is very, very competitive."
"It’s too early to determine who is going to be top of that group. We’d love to be making advances and going up. It’s demanding. It’s a short league, but a long competition. We feel like we’re on the front foot at the moment and very much looking at ourselves to trying and getting better to get good results.” he opined.
When asked whether this will be ATK’s toughest home match so far, Coppell answered, “Healthy respect is what we have for Bengaluru. We look at ourselves first and foremost in this game and if we play well, we can win it. The emphasis is on us and not on the opponents form my point of view.”
ATK is yet to get a clean sheet, in this ISL season. When asked about the priority to get one, Coppell stated, “Ever coach loves clean-sheets. We work to try and get clean sheets. It’s our number 1 priority tomorrow to get a clean sheet and start a number of clean sheets. Goals wins games, but clean-sheets win trophies.”
It’s going to be a big occasion for John Johnson, who formerly played for Bengaluru FC. When asked on how important the game is for John personally, Coppell said “He has obviously given us an insight on what Bengaluru try and do. Bengaluru are more or less settled. They haven’t had a great deal to change. Their style of game is something you can almost predict. They have great players in key positions and John has given us an insight into how they prepare, the things they try and do. Hopefully, we’ll try and counter that. He’s been very important for the last couple of days.”
When asked how important it will be for ATK to contain Miku and Sunil Chhetri, Coppell explained, “We have to play well. They have key personnel in their team, we have the key personnel. Our key personnel have to play well. That’s a given. You don’t have to get too complicated about systems, styles, formations or tactics. We have to keep it simple to try and get a victory tomorrow.”
The Englishman was asked whether he’s taking any advice from Sanjoy Sen preparing for the game and said, “Yes, me and Sanjoy have a continuing dialogue. He’s a man who is highly experienced in India. We chat about oppositions, football, and life on a daily basis. Obviously, he knows his stuff when it comes to Indian football.”
When asked on whom he thinks is more dangerous for Bengaluru among Miku and Chhetri, he stated, “I think the emphasis is on us as far as I’m concerned. We respect the oppositions but don’t lose sleep over the oppositions. We have to play well and judge ourselves by our own standards. If we don’t play well, they will punish us. But we don’t dwell on them for too long.”
Finally, Coppell was asked whether or not Andre Bikey, who is yet to start a game for ATK this season, will begin the game tomorrow. He said, “It depends on the situation of the game. Andre can play a number of roles he can start defensively, he can start sitting midfield. He’s got a role of closing out games.”
“The English Rugby Union coach says that the players who finish the games are equally important as the starters. I think that is also applicable in football right now. I think the finishes play a massive role as well. I think it’s very important to have a player like Andre who can play in a number of positions and dictate how we play,” the Englishman stated.
Carles Cuadrat (Bengaluru FC)
Cuadrat rejected the 'favourties' tag
Carles Cuadrat welcomed the press in a confident manner. Firstly, he was asked on how impressed he was with Miku and Sunil Chhetri’s performance level despite their age, and said, “Well, they’ve been playing here for a long time. You know them as well as I know them. They’re brilliant players and have been scoring many goals from us for the past few seasons. I think both of them are exceptional professionals. They have the aim to impress inside them. They want to impress in front of their supporters. Their talent and chemistry make that kind of nice things happen.”
Giving his thoughts on ATK this season, Cuadrat stated, “I think ATK are an excellent team. If you see in the last three games, they’ve got seven points, the same as us in the last three games. They are hungry to win the game. The International break helped them readjust and make some changes to the team. They have excellent individuals who can change the game and we have a lot of respect for them.”
When asked on whether he feels it’s a momentous occasion to face Kolkata side after having fought against the likes of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal for years, he said, “Yeah it’s always nice to come and play here. It’s the city in India which love football more than anywhere else. All the games here can be really emotional. I remember two years ago we played against East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. After Albert, the club trusted me to take over. It’s great to come here and play a football game.”
Bengaluru have retained their important core which gave them so much success last season. When asked about this helping him, Cuadrat said, “Yes of course. That is one of the reasons I’m a coach now. It’s because I knew what the club was offering me and I said yes to that. As I told from the beginning, I was working with Albert for a long time. And when the opportunity took place, I have to play football as Albert has. We are sorry to miss players like John Johnson. Unfortunately tomorrow he’ll be playing in another shirt, but we’ll have to do with that.”
John Johnson’s departure left a big gap in Bengaluru’s team. Talking about the impact of the Englishman’s absence, he explained, “It’s very difficult to work at his absence. It’s because he’s not an excellent player, but an excellent person. He gives a lot to the locker room with his high personality. He was really important for the history of Bengaluru. However, we have many options and we are very happy with Alberto Serran.
“Of course, he isn’t as a big a locker room leader like John, but we’re really happy with him. You have people you are very happy with, but it's their decision to leave. So we let John go and transferred to Albert, and I’m pleased with that. Things like that happen with football and I’m okay with that.”
Bengaluru FC was knocked out of the AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-final earlier this year. When speaking about rebuilding his team after that, Cuadrat explained, “We are a team that has always tried to fight for competitions like competitions. We reached the AFC Up finals two years ago, but it wasn’t easy as the teams in that competition are really, really difficult.”
“The team which eliminated us were a very good team. One week before our game, we lost Dimas Delgado and that hurt us. After that, we had time to regroup. A long competition like ISL is not the same as a home and away the competition like AFC Cup. We have time to work and readjust things that didn’t work in the AFC Cup.”
When asked about what he feels is ATK’s strong-suit this season, he said, “I think they have very good players that know how to get the best they can give to the club. If you see a coach like Steve, who has vast experience in India and knows how to manage the players, you know you’re facing a very competitive team who will be difficult to beat.”
Finally, when he was asked whether he thinks Bengaluru’s tag as favorites to win the ISL is good or bad for them, Cuadrat explained, “Thanks for stating that we’re favorites to win the trophy. I don’t feel like this. I think we have to fight hard and try to reach the playoffs. Our main target is to reach the playoffs. After that, we need to fight even harder to win the trophy. Last season we dominated the league stage and lost the final in knockout rounds. We are working well to give our all to fans and get the opportunity to progress into the semi-finals.”
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ATK are still missing the services of Prabir Das, Arnab Mondal and Sheik Faiaz due to long-term injuries. According to Coppell, there a few niggles in the squad right now but every fit player should be available for selection on Wednesday.
Bengaluru FC have no injury problems right now and play against ATK with a fully-fit squad.
Arindam, Khongjee, Gerson, Johnson, Ricky, Pronoy, Everton, Thatal, Lanzarote, Balwant, Uche.
Did You Know?
- Along with FC Pune City, ATK are the only side who’ve been unable to keep a clean sheet so far this season.
- Bengaluru FC have won their last five away games in a row in the league stage. They’ve scored 13 goals and kept 3 clean sheets at that.
- ATK are yet to score a goal against Bengaluru FC in the ISL.
The game will take place on Wednesday at 7:30 PM IST, in the Salt Lake Stadium. It will be telecasted on Star Sports 3, JioTV and Hotstar.