Both teams have had to come through tough clashes in the last four to make it to the showpiece.
It is a fascinating match-up in the Durand Cup finale, as record champions Mohun Bagan will have another shot at the prestigious trophy, after they trounced Real Kashmir 3-1 in the semis. However, in the final they will have to go through a well-drilled Gokulam Kerala side.
The Malabarians, on the other hand, will feature in their first Durand Cup final. Their semi-final clash against East Bengal was all square even after extra-time. It was the heroics from their goalkeeper Ubaid CK in the penalty shootout, which allowed them to book their tickets for the finale.
Here’s what the respective coaches had to say in the press conference ahead of the all-important clash on Saturday.
Kibu Vicuna (Mohun Bagan)
Bagan head coach Kibu Vicuna was optimistic about his team’s chances in the final. But, the Spanish tactician was also wary of the threat Gokulam can pose.
He said, “Gokulam are good team, they have good players. Last game they played in different shapes. Of course, their captain (Marcus) Joseph has scored many goals. I think that he is their strength. Henry Kisekka and their Indian players are also very good. Overall, there is a good team and they will be a tough opponent. “
When quizzed about the area of the game he feels his team needs to improve the Spaniard added, “We have to improve in every aspect of the game. Defensively and offensively and also in transitions and in set-pieces. We have a lot of things to improve. We have just started the season. Hopefully, we are improving after every game. In my opinion, we played well last game.”
The 47-year old rubbished talk of his team starting as favourites as he said, “I don’t think we are favourites. Both teams have the same possibility to win. It is 50-50. I think both teams are equally good. I think we played very well until now. The most important thing is that we scored one more than the opponent. That’s what matters. “
Lastly, Vicuna again spoke about his preference for having an extra substitution in extra-time, considering the humid conditions. “I prefer to have another sub in extra-time in these championships, which happen in pre-season. In my opinion, they should change some rules, like the extra-time substitution rules. Especially, they should avoid extra-time in these humid conditions. But, again no excuses.”
Fernando Valera (Gokulam Kerala)
Head coach Fernanndo Valera was concerned with fatigue and less recovery time for the players ahead of the all-important finale. However, he was confident about the brand of football Gokulam have been playing throughout the tournament and will look to continue the good work at the final hurdle.
He said, “It is a little difficult. We played 120 minutes just two days back. But, we have to be prepared and ready to play tomorrow’s final. We need to put the focus on our style. We will try to put all our energy to play as per style.”
When asked about his opposition in the final, Valera had some kind words for the Mohun Bagan team as he stated, “They have a very good striker in Salva Chamorro. Joseba Beitia and (Francisco) Morante are also good. Overall, Mohun Bagan as a whole are a very good team.”
The Spanish tactician also revealed doubts regarding Brazilian midfielder Bruno Pelissari and how his team does not want to depend only on Joseph for goals. He further added, “Bruno is not ready to play full 90 minutes. We have to take care of him. Obviously, the final is important, but we have to think about the I-League as well.
To play the final all players must be ready. It is not about just one player (Joseph). We have to improve as a team.”
Midfielder Francisco Gonzalez has suffered an illness, but Vicuna has clarified that the 30-year-old is fine and will train ahead of the game. However, he will mostly likely start the game from the bench.
Bruno Pelissari is not fully fit to start, but the 26-year-old midfielder will be among the substitutes and will probably come on in the second half against Bagan.
Mohun Bagan: Sankar, Gurjinder, Kim Kima, Morante, Ashutosh, Sahil, Surabuddin, Beitia, Romario, Naorem, Chamorro.
Gokulam Kerala FC: Ubaid, George, Ettienne, Naocha, Irshad, Rashid, Meitei, Shibil, Sebastian, Joseph, Kisekka.
Time and Venue
The Durand Cup final between Mohun Bagan and Gokulam Kerala will kickoff at 5 PM IST at the Salt Lake Stadium.
The match will be shown live on Star Sports 3 and Star Sports 1 (Bangla). It will also be streamed on Hotstar.