ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Antonio Lopez Habas admitted they know little of new entrants SC East Bengal but said it doesn’t give their opponents the advantage ahead of their much-anticipated Indian Super League derby clash here on Friday.
ATKMB started off their ISL campaign with a 1-0 win over Kerala Blasters while for SC East Bengal the derby will be their opening match of the tournament.
Little is known about the red and gold brigade that has been built from the scratch by Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler just a month before the start following their dramatic ISL entry.
“We have information about Fowler’s last job in Australia with Brisbane (Roar). I had to see their performance, behavior, system and many things but the information we have is little,” Habas said on the eve of the match.
The Spaniard, however, disagreed that it’s advantage SC East Bengal.
“Maybe it’s good that we played a match and maybe it’s better for East Bengal because we don’t know how East Bengal plays. It’s something that we have to accept in a competition. For me, it’s not an advantage (for East Bengal),” said Habas.
“I don’t worry. We have to respect all the teams. Maximum respect to all the opponents and play good football.”
For Habas, winning is an obsession and the Spaniard is all focused on getting three points from the season’s first derby here on Friday.
Traditional rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will clash in top-flight ISL for the first time ever since their mergers with ATK and Shree Cement respectively.
“It’s important but you never know what is the most important match in your career. I coached Bolivia (in Copa America). All matches are different and now for me I have the maximum concentration to win (against East Bengal). This is my obsession,” Habas said.
“I think the derby is a special match but only for a week before and after the match. It’s an important match for me because I know what the intensity is in Kolkata and what it (Kolkata derby) means for Kolkata supporters.
“I think the pressure is on both the teams. You have 90 minutes to execute your concept and idea of play. I don’t know what the scoreline will be.”
Finishing seemed a concern for ATKMB against Kerala as Roy Krishna failed to convert as many as three chances in the first half.
“It’s natural that the performance of players after seven months’ (break) is not perfect. We need time but I am very happy with the performance of the central department (midfield),” Habas said.
“We are training for the match. I need my players ready for the match, notafter the match. This is the idea. I want them to compete well in the match.”
The match may see the dream combination of Roy Krishna and David Williams up front. The Aussie was not picked in the starting XI against Kerala.
But Habas remained tightlipped.
“I don’t know. I have to talk to the players before the match. They know what is the first XI a day before and the match plan will be explained to the players,” he said.
Giving an update on Michael Soosairaj’s injury, Habas said the winger would need more time and may be fit for India’s World Cup qualifiers in March.
“For us, it’s a disaster because Soosairaj is a good player and a good person. In my opinion, Soosairaj can play with the (Indian) national team. This injury is a big one but life continues and football continues and we hope Soosairaj recovers quickly,” he signed off.