ATK Mohun Bagan duo Subashish Bose and Ashique Kuruniyan are determined to secure a berth for their side in the preliminary round of the AFC Cup 2023-24 as they take on Hyderabad FC in a one-legged Hero Club Playoffs clash at the EMS Corporation Stadium, in Kozhikode, on Wednesday.

The Mariners ended the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season as Hero ISL champions after overcoming Bengaluru FC on penalties in the summit clash. They also beat Hyderabad FC on penalties in the semi-finals, who previously won the title during the 2021-22 season.

The Green and Maroons were in action during the 2021 and 2022 editions of the AFC Cup but couldn't progress beyond the Inter-zonal playoff semi-final. A win against Hyderabad FC will provide them a chance to play on the continental stage for a third straight season, and Bose wants his side to compete with some of the best teams in Asia.

“Our club always prioritises participation in the AFC Cup. Everyone in the squad knows that. Last season we progressed quite a lot and we know if we can move onto the preliminary stages or group stages of the AFC Cup, we’ll get to play with a number of quality foreign sides. We want that to happen,” he was quoted as saying by Khel Now.

ATK Mohun Bagan will be hoping to regain their confidence after a poor Hero Super Cup campaign. They finished third in their group after recording just one win while suffering two defeats, failing to make it past the group stage. However, Bose maintained that the results in the Hero Super Cup won’t have a huge impact on their upcoming Hero Club Playoff clash.

“The motivation to play in the AFC Cup and our mindset for the Hero Super Cup were totally different. I don’t think our disappointments in the Hero Super Cup will affect our performance for this playoff. The only talk around the dressing room going on right now is to win this match before we go on holidays. We can’t let this final game let us down,” he also added.

Talking about the upcoming challenge against Hyderabad FC, Bose added: “Hyderabad FC are a very strong side. However, I personally believe that if we don’t give them too much freedom in the game then they won’t be able to win it. We need to play our own team game, doing which we can win it. Considering the strength of our squad, there is no reason why we can’t win this one. We’ve prepared for anything that needs to be done to win this game. We have a fully fit squad, which is a major positive for us too.”

Can’t let another big opportunity get past our hands: Kuruniyan

ATK Mohun Bagan forward Ashique Kuruniyan is also motivated to win game against Hyderabad FC. The Malappuram-born winger revealed that he was eager to win the Hero Super Cup trophy at his home ground, but was disappointed not to do so.

“Kozhikode is my own city, where I’ve been brought up. I had big hopes to have played the Hero Super Cup final here, but I really broke down after that dream was crushed. But these things happen in football and we can’t let another big opportunity get past our hands,” Kuruniyan stated.

With the Hero Club Playoff clash also being held in Kozhikode, Kuruniyan is keen to put on a show in his hometown. The 25-year-old claimed that playing on the continental stage is a big ambition for him and the club.

“I want to end the season by helping my team defeat Hyderabad FC in my own ground. We’ll be able to play with the best clubs in Asia if we’re able to win this game. That is a big objective for ambitious footballers like me. We don’t want to be restricted to being just the national champions. Everyone is pumped up to win this game. I’m ready to give my 100% in this game and who wouldn’t want to give their all in their home ground?” he concluded.