Fikru will miss semi-final clash against Goa

Antonio López Habas
Atlético de Kolkata head coach Antonio López Habas.

Atlético de Kolkata head coach Antonio López Habas will go for a win despite his team still being plagued by injuries and leaving injured star striker Fikru Teferra at home. The Spanish gaffer put up a confident front ahead of side’s crunch semi-final second leg against FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Wednesday. The first leg ended in a goalless draw in Kolkata.

Talking about his strategy for the match tomorrow, Habas said that he would set up an attacking team with the intention of winning it. “Our strategy is simple. We will look to control the game and keep the intensity up. It will be a different game than before. We’re playing away and it will be difficult. The team we’re playing against is a very good one,” he said at the pre-match press conference.

Habas went on to add, “The players have been working hard. We will set the team up for a win tomorrow. Normally in tournaments like this, when you’re playing the second leg away, the home team has a bit of an advantage. But let’s see.”

Asked about the availability of Fikru for the crucial clash, the coach revealed that the Ethiopian international would not be available,. “He has a slight problem. He is not 100 per cent (fit) and won’t take part in tomorrow’s contest. He hasn’t traveled with the team.” Habas also stated that the team is struggling with the fitness of a few players. “We have a few injuries in the squad but there are still 24 hours to go. We’ll have to assess the situation tomorrow,” he added.

Due to Fikru’s injury, Habas handed Indian striker Mohammed Rafi a starting berth in the first semi-final and he may make the cut tomorrow too. “Rafi is a good player. He has improved a lot in the last week of this tournament. We have a lot of confidence in his ability as a player,” he explained. 

Habas also revealed that Mamunul Islam has returned to Bangladesh without a game under his belt. “It was a good opportunity for him to represent his national team. It’s good for us as well that he gets that more experience. It was difficult for him to get a spot in the team since he joined us late. We have a lot of international players already in the team and it was difficult to give him a place,” Habas said.

Habas noted that the Hero Indian Super League was a success as the Indian players had stepped up to help their teams. “We’re very proud of the performance of the Indian players. We can see the improvement in these players since the start. We tried to educate them in terms of the game and they are much more professional than before,” he averred.

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