ATK Mohun Bagan defender Pritam Kotal expressed concerns regarding the hurdles the team has to face in their upcoming 2022 AFC Cup campaign, which begins on April 12. The Mariners will be up against Sri Lankan side Blue Star FC in the Preliminary Round 2 at the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata.

ATK Mohun Bagan got fast tracked to the continental event by virtue of finishing at the second spot in the Hero ISL 2020-21, with Mumbai City FC claiming both the title and the League Winners’ Shield in the same season.

Kotal, a mainstay in the squad and having played every match in the Hero ISL 2021-22, will play a major role in the 2022 AFC Cup. The Mariners need to win two qualifying matches in order to gain entry to the group stages of the competition. Despite being the favourites in the upcoming match, Kotal feels the campaign won’t be a cakewalk going forward.

“We got a direct entry to the group stages of the AFC Cup last season, but the situation is different this time. We have to win two qualifiers to gain entry to the main event, which makes the 2022 AFC Cup more difficult. Like the previous term, the strengths of the teams in the group stages are quite similar, but that comes later,” said Pritam Kotal, as reported by the ATK Mohun Bagan media team.

“Our immediate target is to win the match against Blue Star FC. The team defends with 10 men at a time, plays compact football and relies on counter-attacks. So, we need to give our 100% to win the game and cannot underestimate our opponents.”

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Liston Colaco, who had an impeccable Hero ISL 2021-22 season with the Mariners, is disappointed with the team not claiming silverware. The speedy winger is determined to ride the momentum and help his side produce positive results in the 2022 AFC Cup.

“I suffered a nose injury while playing for the national team. After the operation I am doing well and now I am fit to play. I scored for ATK Mohun Bagan in the AFC Cup last season. I have scored eight goals and assisted five times in the Hero ISL 2021-22,” stated Colaco.

“Despite the positive display, we were unlucky not to win the title or the League Winners’ Shield. That is why I cannot say it has been a perfect season for me. If the team performs well in the AFC Cup, then only I can say it has been a successful season. We’ll try our best.”