ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando urged the club’s supporters to root for his side during the difficult moments when they face Odisha FC in a one-off Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 knockout fixture at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Saturday.

The Mariners have qualified for the Hero ISL playoffs for a third season running after finishing third in the Hero ISL standings. Odisha FC, on the other hand, finished sixth in the Hero ISL table, four points behind the Mariners, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in their history.

Having finished above the Juggernauts in the standings, Juan Ferrando’s side will play the one-legged knockout fixture at their home. The winner of the clash will go on to face Hyderabad FC in the semi-final over two legs. Ferrando called for his side to make the most of the situation while asking the fans to root for the team.

“It’s better to play at home than away because we have our supporters. But it’s 90 minutes, so its necessary to control other details. When you play home and away, you have two chances, but in this case, there’s only one chance. It’s necessary to put focus in this match. I hope the supporters can help the players in difficult moments,” Ferrando stated in the pre-match press conference.

ATK Mohun Bagan have struggled to maintain consistency throughout the season. They finished with fewer points than the previous two seasons and have lost on six occasions this campaign, the most defeats by the club in a single league season in Hero ISL history.

The Mariners won their final two league games against Kerala Blasters FC and East Bengal FC, but prior to that, they had managed to win only two across nine games. Ferrando revealed that nothing much has changed, despite the team winning their previous two games.

“The plan all the time is the same. It’s one knockout game. But we prepared for some details in attack and defence because it's different when you play against Odisha FC and against Kerala Blasters FC or East Bengal FC. But against Kerala Blasters FC, it was a similar (situation) like a knockout. If you get the three points, you get to the playoffs,” he stated.

“Now in this case, we have 90 minutes in front of us to reach the semi-finals. But we haven’t changed a lot of things. I repeat all the time that I have trust in this squad and this team. We need to change and prepare for some details because it’s a different match but I hope at the end (of the game) on Saturday, we’ll be talking about (the semi-final against) Hyderabad FC,” he added.

ATK Mohun Bagan are unbeaten against Odisha FC in the Hero ISL, they have won thrice and have drawn as many games in their past six meetings. The Kalinga Warriors will have their task cut out in Kolkata, having won only three of their 10 away games. Ferrando asked his players to focus on themselves while being wary of the opponent’s strengths.

“They have important players. The level of the squad is of a high level. Of course, it’s one game, but we need to put focus in our team, like the other games,” Ferrando stated.

“We know the opponent. They have good and talented players. They have quality players. What’s in our hands is to prepare the team and the players. The season for Odisha FC was good. We have a lot of respect for them, but it’s necessary to think about ourselves,” he added.

Australian centre-back Brendan Hamill is set to miss the tie, having flown back to his country owing to a family emergency. Ferrando acknowledged the defender’s situation and said he will take a late call on his playing eleven against Odisha FC.

“The most important thing in life is family. So we respect this. This match is secondary in this case. It’s time for him to be with his family. So I’m not worried about this. With the rest of the players, until Saturday, we will see who has the best performance, who is in the best situation to support the team, who can help the team,” Ferrando stated.

ATK Mohun Bagan midfielder Ashique Kuruniyan accompanied head coach Ferrando in the pre-match press conference. Known for his pace and attacking output from the flanks, Kuruniyan has not much to show for his efforts this season, managing only one assist in the process.

The 25-year-old, who made the switch from Bengaluru FC to the Kolkata side ahead of the ongoing Hero ISL season, believes he is heading towards the right direction at ATK Mohun Bagan.

“I didn’t feel any pressure as such (after joining ATK Mohun Bagan from Bengaluru FC ahead of the 2022-23 season). Our aim is to succeed against Odisha FC but there is no pressure for me. It is challenging but that helps me in giving my best and improving myself,” he stated in the official pre-match press conference.

The Mariners hold a huge advantage of having the home support in the knockout game against Odisha FC. Moreover, their opponents have fared poorly in their away fixtures this season. Kuruniyan admitted his side do hold an advantage over the Kalinga Warriors, but cautioned that his side cannot take their opponents lightly despite being favourites to win the game.

“Yes, we do have an advantage of playing our knockout game at home. We have to take our chances and convert them since it’s a knockout. But then again, it’s a knockout game, it will be an equal contest for both the teams. Both teams will attack and try to score first,” he said.

Vying for their third successive semi-final appearance, the supporters will play a key figure in helping their side advance through to the semi-finals. Kuruniyan believes the presence of fans in the stadium will be an added boost for the team.

“Just how you guys came and supported us during the Kolkata derby, please come to the stadium to support us as we’ll be giving out 100% to make this team reach the semi-final,” he concluded.