Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas knows that a high-octane clash like the Kolkata Derby involves different dynamics, emotions, and pressure and hence swings ways across 90 minutes. Both teams presumably will have their own periods of dominance during the clash, and the side that will hold their composure until the end will walk away with the three points.

“We are a very competitive team. Sometimes, in the derby, the game starts in one way and ends somewhere else. We have to do well, as per our plan, and not worry about the score,” he said, as the Mariners prepare to take on East Bengal FC at the Salt Lake Stadium on February 3 at 7:30 p.m.

I know how important it is to win the Kolkata Derby

Assessing East Bengal FC, Habas appreciates the winning mentality infused within them by tactician Carles Cuadrat, who also secured a runners-up finish for the team in the Durand Cup earlier. He understands that their rivals wear a different look this time around, and a lot of it is down to the conditioning that Cuadrat has given them both on and off the pitch.

“I don’t have bad memories about the Derby, because a lot of times, I had different things to say about East Bengal FC. East Bengal FC has a good team right now. They have a good coach. Their idea is to win now, and football is to win, not to lose and to draw. They are here to win the match. I know how important it is to win the Kolkata Derby,” Habas said.

My focus is on my team

Being a former ISL champion, Habas is refraining from reading too much into their opponents. He understands that the Mariners have a power-packed squad at their disposal and it is only a matter of time before they begin firing cohesively. He is appreciative of the quality brimming through the East Bengal FC squad but has redirected attention to his own set of players, who will be raring to put up a formidable fight in the second half of the ISL 2023-24 campaign.

“Yeah, I feel that East Bengal FC are very happy with their squad for the Super Cup. They don’t make changes every other day. I remember that their coach is only happy when they win the trophy. I am focusing on my team. You have to analyse the opponents. But my team is more important to me,” Habas said.

Will give my 100% to the club

Habas expressed excitement upon returning to the club, saying that this is the perfect challenge for him at this stage of his career. At the same time, Habas is sympathetic with his predecessor Juan Ferrando, stating that the job of a head coach is pretty ruthless.

“It’s an amazing opportunity at this stage of my career. The club knows what they want from me and I understand the same from the first moment. I will give my 100% to the club,” Habas said. He added, “I think Juan Ferrando did a good job. In football, the coach is the problem all the time. You are training, when you have good days, everything is on the team. But if you lose, the blame goes back to the coach.”

Aim to take step-by-step efforts to win the trophy

At the moment, Habas is not looking too far ahead. The Kolkata Derby is taking up most of his attention and bandwidth, also because he is insistent on taking things one game at a time. Habas reiterates that the larger goal is to lift the trophy with the Mariners, but he will not be looking at 12 matches ahead already. At the same time, he shied away from naming individuals from either side who could be the X-factors in this high-profile encounter.

“We (Habas and his team) have experience in the LALIGA, South Africa, in India, I feel we have had a successful career and it is our idea to finish at the first position in the table. I am here to win, but we need to win step by step, it is important to win the next match, this is the idea that we have come up with. There are good players in both teams, but I don’t like to name one player above the other or put them against each other. For me, football is a collective sport,” Habas signed off.

The historic Kolkata derby shall be played tomorrow, February 03, as Mohun Bagan Super Giant hosts East Bengal FC at the Salt Lake Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.