ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando reiterated the importance of their Hero Club Playoffs match against Hyderabad FC at the EMS stadium in Kozhikode on Wednesday which has a preliminary round spot in the AFC Cup 2023-24 on offer. 

The Mariners who were crowned the champions of Hero ISL 2022-23 take on Hyderabad FC who won the previous edition for a straight playoff for a continental spot which has always been a matter of great prestige for Hero ISL clubs. 

“For us, it's very important. To play in international competitions is not just good for the players but also good for the club because it is a great opportunity to improve. So, this match is very much a part of our season,” Ferrando said during the pre-match press conference. 

ATK Mohun Bagan were part of the competition last season but could not advance past the Inter-zone playoff semi-finals after a defeat to Kuala Lumpur City FC and are keen to improve on that showing. 

“Two years ago, I participated in the group stages of the AFC Champions League (with FC Goa), last year it was the AFC Cup. But it is always different compared to previous seasons,” the Spaniard said. 

“We play some of the best teams in Asia if we qualify and the teams change, they change the coach, their methodology. So against these teams, it's important to control a lot of details,” he added. 

The Mariners are at the fag end of a long season but head coach Ferrando has demanded from his players to give their best and treat the match against Hyderabad FC as a key part of their campaign. 

“The game is a big opportunity for us. You don't know what will happen in future, so it's important to focus on the present. One mistake can cost us. We saw that in the AFC Cup where one mistake in the last minute saw us lose and go out. It's important to be focussed for 90 minutes,” he said. 

“We are professionals, we try to do our best every day. So our focus is now on the Hyderabad FC match and we will try to do well and be in the next rounds of the AFC Cup,” he added. 

ATK Mohun Bagan and Hyderabad FC faced each other four times in Hero ISL 2022-23 with both teams winning an encounter each in the league stages. Their semi-final showdown finished 0-0 after the two legs and Mariners edged the contest in the penalty shootout. A year earlier, it was Hyderabad FC who had got the better of the Mariners at the semi-final stage as they went on to lift the title. 

Thus Ferrando is under no illusions about the strength of their opponent. 

“Hyderabad FC have been fighting for the top spots for the last three seasons. They are very compact. They won the Hero ISL trophy last season. This season they finished second in the league. It will be a very difficult match. We know the level of their players, level of the team,” he concluded.