Habas content with ATK Mohun Bagan FC’s preparations despite lack of pre-season friendlies

A serial winner in the Indian subcontinent, Antonio López Habas has consistently impressed with his tactical acumen and strategic prowess, making him the most decorated head coach in the history of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). The two-time winner most recently led his side to the inter-zonal semi-finals of the AFC Cup, only to come up short against FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan.

The gaffer interacted with the media during a virtual interaction, sharing his thoughts on the season ahead, his squad, and much more.

While most Hero ISL clubs have gotten the opportunity to conduct a lengthier pre-season campaign this time around, while also facing off against different sides. Habas’ ATK Mohun Bagan have decided against playing any friendlies in the buildup to the season.

“I don’t have any problem with the practice matches, last season also we didn’t play any practice matches. I prefer training internally and anyway, the friendly matches are not played in the best condition,”Habas stated.

The 64-year-old has been at the helm for many teams in the Hero ISL, and Habas credits his ability to break away from the monotony of playing the same kind of football, as a major reason for his brilliant performances.

“I am not a coach every day who uses the same process, the same style, the same method, and the same way to play. The idea is to play according to the strength of the players I have,” he said.

Although his team have been one of the most clinical going forward, the well-drilled, disciplined backline that he has set up, has been the launchpad for two exceedingly successful seasons.

Showering praise on his defensive unit, he said, “There are players in the lineup like Pritam (Kotal), Subhashish (Bose), Sumit (Rathi), (Deepak) Tangri, (Ashutosh) Mehta, who are fantastic players in the defensive line, Tiri is one of the most important players for us, I have a lot of trust in him and Carl McHugh also.”

With the addition of Finnish international Joni Kauko and Hero ISL winner Hugo Boumous, to an already star-studded foreign contingent, the Spaniard is sure to have a pleasant headache while picking out his starting line-ups for every game.

“I have six good foreign players. Now I have no idea as such of the first eleven, because in football, in one game and one week, maybe the situation changes, as one player (may get an) injury or one player (may be) out for a long time, I don’t want to imagine (the future situation), I want to win, that is more important,” quipped Habas, acknowledging the competition for spots within ATK Mohun Bagan.

The head coach is also well acquainted with the competitiveness of the Hero ISL, having been around for five seasons now. For Habas, a unique feature of the league is its unpredictability.

When asked about his contenders for the championship this season, he said, “I don’t know, because in the Hero ISL, each season a lot of players change, there is an overhaul in the foreign players. I feel it is very difficult to bet now for 18 games. About the paper, looking at the stars, seeing maybe, this team, but in football, it is impossible to bet for one team.”

Habas’ ATK Mohun Bagan will be in action on match day one of the Hero ISL, facing off against Kerala Blasters FC on November 19th at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda.

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