Pratik Chaudhari: Odisha unlucky to still be winless

Mumbai City FC host Odisha FC in their first match at home in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 season on Thursday. The Islanders have enjoyed quite a healthy start to their campaign, picking up four points from their opening two fixtures whilst also keeping two clean sheets.

Defender, Pratik Chaudhari has played a major role in that respect, performing admirably to compensate for the loss of Mato Grgic at the heart of Mumbai’s defence. Ahead of the coming match, the 30-year-old shared his thoughts on the same and a variety of other topics in an exclusive interview with Here are the excerpts:

Two clean sheets in as many matches, dream start as a Mumbai City FC player?

I am glad we could do this, especially being a local boy. There is always that kind of, I can’t say pressure, but you have to do an extra bit for your team. I have always wanted to be here, play for my hometown club and do well for this club. I finally got the opportunity to represent this club and what a way to start. First game, a win with a clean sheet, second game again, clean sheet. I am very happy with what we have done so far.

On playing two daunting sides (Kerala Blasters FC and Chennaiyin FC) away from home this early.

When we got our fixtures, we saw we are starting the league with two away matches. Away matches are always difficult. But we don't have an option, we have to get going. We had done good preparations in our pre-season. We made sure that we leave no stone unturned, we started well. After the win in Kochi, it was a big boost for the whole team as well as for me to try and get maximum points in Chennai. Bagging four points in two matches, I think is a decent result for us. So, everyone is happy and confident for the next match coming up at home (against Odisha FC).

On how Mumbai City FC have prepared for the match against Odisha FC?

Odisha FC is a very good team. What I have seen so far from both their matches is that they play quite well with the ball. They keep possession of the ball as well. It is just that they have been unlucky they couldn't get a win. But they are a team who will give us a tough fight. It won’t be easy for us. We are also prepared, coming after these two away matches, we are confident and ready for the first home match, so let's see what happens.

On Mumbai City FC’s penchant for keeping clean sheets in a row.

As a defender I would always love to keep as many clean sheets as possible. We have kept two (clean sheets) so far. Everyone has kept their heads down, and the target in our minds is that we have to keep working hard towards our goal for the season - that is to get into the semi-finals first. So, we are taking it match by match, so the next match, our primary target is to win our first home match. If we get a clean sheet it will be icing on the cake.

On replacing Mato Grgic at the heart of Mumbai City FC defence.

Mato Grgic is a very nice guy. He is a very good player as well. It was very unfortunate that he got injured in the very first game. I got the opportunity to come on (substituted in). Being a professional, it is my job to come on the pitch and do what needs to be done, there was no pressure as such, but yes, I had to come in and do the job. We knew everyone has worked hard to win the game. That is what I wanted to do, help and support my team, do what the coach (Jorge Costa) needs.

On facing Odisha FC striker Aridane Santana.

I have seen him (Aridane Santana) play, he is a very good player. But we have worked ourselves to defend well against the team, we will not be preparing particularly against any player as such, we are preparing against Odisha FC so we are focused on that.

On playing with Subrata Paul (at Jamshedpur FC) and Amrinder Singh (at Mumbai City FC).

It has been a pleasure to play alongside Subrata Paul, as he is a legend of Indian Football. Amrinder (Singh) on the other hand is also a very good goalkeeper. The way he is playing now since the last few years, he has been doing very well. There are similarities and there are differences, of course, they are two different players. I got to learn a lot when I was playing alongside Subrata Paul, the way he communicates, the way he guides from the back, which is something I admire a lot and I get to learn a lot from him, and it is the same with Amrinder (Singh) as well. He communicates really well, he makes sure the team stays together in shape and guides very well from the back, which is another positive for the defenders who play in front of him.

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