ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa’s recent histories are interlinked. Apart from being key competitors for a playoff spot in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) this season, the two clubs share one common point that has largely influenced the paths they have taken since. 

The switch of head coach Juan Ferrando from FC Goa to ATK Mohun Bagan was a seismic change, not just for the two clubs but also for the league, as it impacted two of the biggest clubs in the league. 

Since then, the ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa have undertaken contrasting paths but find themselves pretty much on the same level as they head into Wednesday’s meeting in Kolkata. Just one point and a place in the league table separates the two teams. 

But a year after that Ferrando switch, the two clubs have digested that massive and sudden change and seem to be heading toward their intended targets. 

“Both clubs would be happy because they have moved forward,” Hero ISL commentator and expert Darren Caldeira says. 

“ATK Mohun Bagan are seeing the attacking football that they didn't see under Antonio Habas. Some of the results and performances haven't been good enough, but it just got pretty stale under Habas,” he adds. 

“As for FC Goa, we are seeing a very strong FC Goa side under Carlos Pena. One that can be unpredictable at times and not consistent enough but on their day, they can trouble any other side,” he continues. 

Pena’s own touch

FC Goa struggled after Ferrando’s departure as they finished ninth in the league last season, but the work to get back to their best started behind the scenes, and under new head coach Carlos Pena, they seem to be back among the top sides in the Hero ISL again. 

“They got in the right signings and, for me, took a gamble on Carlos Pena, and that has worked. He has brought in the same philosophies and ideas we associate with FC Goa. He has added a different dimension up with Noah Sadaoui upfront, and they can be very direct,” says Caldeira. 

Paul Masefield, another Hero ISL commentator and expert, seconds Caldeira’s views, and feels Pena is taking FC Goa forward by adding his ideas to the FC Goa philosophy. 

“If you look at what Pena's done this year, he has started to galvanise these players and started to implement Plan B and C for the starting XI. They play the same FC Goa way, but they also have options now, which is the big thing for me,” Masefield says. 

“They have exciting players like Noah and Brandon. It's a question of when Alvaro Vazquez starts scoring. That will really kickstart this FC Goa side,” he adds.

The Gaurs have been inconsistent this season but have shown glimpses of what Pena is aiming to build going forward. 

Ferrando’s Mariners still work in progress?

ATK Mohun Bagan have spent a lot of money and backed Ferrando in the summer, but the Mariners haven’t been able to threaten the teams that are aiming for the League Winners’ Shield so far this season. 

Injuries have been a constant thorn in ATK Mohun Bagan’s flesh under the Spaniard, who hasn’t been able to implement his magic at the club. With key players like Joni Kauko missing, the Mariners have struggled to be consistent this season. 

“I think Ferrando's work so far at ATK Mohun Bagan is still ongoing. I think he still hasn't found his best XI at ATK Mohun Bagan and there must be something wrong behind the scenes training-wise because there seem to be a lot of injuries and a lot of niggles,” Masefield says. 

“I think the work that he has done to get them playing when they have a fully fit team is fantastic. ATK Mohun Bagan need to get players fit and if Ferrando can figure his best eleven, they will finish at the top end of the table,” he adds. 

The Mariners will be reeling from the defeat to NorthEast United FC in their last match and face a FC Goa side that had trounced them 0-3 in the reverse fixture. 

ATK Mohun Bagan need their mental strength to ride them through this sticky patch, but the team have shown that they are capable of delivering when the chips are down. 

“There were a few performances that weren't good enough from ATK Mohun Bagan but they managed to get those close victories which is important for a team that is aiming for the top especially when you are not playing well. They still managed to get three points which are very key, Caldeira says. 

Ferrando still has some work to do to validate the Mariners’ decision to employ him mid-season, but if their brand of football and a few positive results are anything to go by, the Spaniard deserves more time to get things right.