ATK Mohun Bagan face defending champions Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League on Thursday in their next fixture. When the two ISL teams clashed earlier in the season, the Islanders thumped the Mariners 5-1.
The Mariners come into this on the back of a brilliant comeback 3-1 victory against SC East Bengal in the Kolkata Derby.
Head coach Juan Ferrando was asked, ahead of the Mumbai game, how he would approach the game given the outcome of the previous encounter. The Spaniard said:
"I think it's totally different. Now, at this moment you know they are working for one month, I think, to be honest, it’s not one month, it’s just only two weeks because one week was in quarantine and everything. And I think the league at this moment is more or less like crazy, you know everybody can win against everybody. You have to be clear in the plan you know and think in this case maybe we have a success."
Since both teams' last encounter, Mumbai City FC have drastically fallen from grace. Des Buckingham's side are winless in their last six games. Asked if this is the perfect opportunity for ATK Mohun Bagan to face the reigning champions, Ferrando said:
"To be honest, no. I'm not thinking about it. I’m thinking about the three points for us. It's very important because we want to be at the top of the table and to work in this way. Of course, our target is to get three points, to prepare a plan to get three points, that's all I'm not thinking about. For me it's another game. I think it's good to play this game because I know their (Mumbai City FC) style. I know their things. We, of course, will try to do the best in the game."
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"He has to continue to improve" - ATK Mohun Bagan head coach on Kolkata Derby star Kiyan Nassiri
Unlike Mumbai City FC, the Mariners have been flying high in the league since the appointment of their new head coach. ATK Mohun Bagan are unbeaten in the league for the last seven games. They currently sit in fifth spot with 19 points from 11 games.
However, the race for the top four has intensified throughout the season. Going into the business end of the season, almost eight teams are still in contention to make it into the knockout phase. Asked about ATK Mohun Bagan's top-four ambitions, Juan Ferrando said:
"To be honest for me, the last nine games are very important. I think it is good for the ISL now, for the supporters, when you check the table, everybody has opportunities. And then what happens, all the games are more competitive, you know. But okay, for now, our target is to try to do the best to get three points."
As mentioned earlier, the Mariners picked up a statement victory in their previous game against their local rivals. SC East Bengal took the early lead but substitute Kiyan Nassiri scored a second-half hat-trick to script a memorable comeback.
Asked what are the plans the head coach has for the 21-year-old forward, the Spanish gaffer said:
"To be honest, he has to continue working, to improve. Of course I'm happy because he was good in controlling space and he was good in action. But okay, he needs to improve in pressing, he needs to improve in the timing of the passes, that is normal. This is our target. Day by day, game by game I think it is necessary (to improve). Of course, they understand that our supporters are very happy for him. But we need time to protect him."