If we play as we did in the group stages, we could win: ATK Mohun Bagan’s Joni Kauko on AFC Cup Inter-Zone SF

ATK Mohun Bagan midfielder Joni Kauko wants his team to replicate the form they showed in the group stages of the AFC Cup as they prepare to face Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur City FC in the Inter-Zone Playoff Semi-final at the Salt Lake stadium on Wednesday.

The Mariners bounced back from a defeat in the first game against Gokulam Kerala to finish top of their group and advance to the next round and the Finnish midfielder believes his team needs to recreate that level of performance to continue in the competition.

Read: Durand Cup is in the past, we’re looking ahead, says ATK Mohun Bagan’s Juan Ferrando ahead of AFC Cup Inter-Zone Playoff SF

ATK Mohun Bagan were knocked out of the Durand Cup recently but Kauko believes it will need the new players some time to adjust and the AFC Cup game may be an opportunity for the team to click as a unit.

Kauko spoke to the media ahead of the match. Here are the excerpts of the interaction.

How have your preparations for the AFC Cup Inter-Zone Playoff semi-final been?

It’s going to be a tough game. But we’ve been preparing well and training hard, everyone is giving everything in training. We’re really well prepared for this match and we’ll go out there, give our best and see where it takes us.

Do you expect an easier game compared to what you faced in the AFC Cup at this very stage last year?

I really hope the result isn’t the same as last year because that was pretty bad. I was in shock after that. It was a horrible game last season. I really hope it won’t be like that again. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the same as last year. The situation is different right now, it’s a different team, a different country and we’re playing at home. Those are the things to speak for us, and I hope we’ll win by the margin of 4-0 this time.

How do you see the challenge of Kuala Lumpur City FC?

It’s going to be a challenge. I think they have a lot of quality and they’re a good side. They’re strong in both ends of the pitch, they’re putting a lot of concentration on set-pieces, so we must be careful with that too. They have a lot of good things in their game, but I also feel like if we can keep the same form as we had in the AFC Cup group stages, then we’ll be able to win on Wednesday.

Read: All you need to know about Kuala Lumpur City FC, ATK Mohun Bagan’s inter-zone playoff SF opponents

What kind of performance do you expect from your team?

We have to play our best match because we only have one chance. Our form might seem like a pattern, but it didn’t happen that way. Football is like that, sometimes you lose games and sometimes you win. I’m really proud of the team that we were able to win the games after losing the first game in the group stages. Everyone knows how far we are in the AFC Cup at the moment and I’m pretty sure the players will give their all on the pitch.

You have had some new foreign players in the team. What is your assessment of these new stars?

There are new players who will always take some time to adapt. Every player comes from different countries and different situations in their lives. It always takes time to be part of the team completely. But we still have a good base. We still have a better structure. Tis’ easier for the new players to get adapted to the team. When it comes to tactical aspects, it depends on the strength of the team. If the team is strong enough, you can change the tactics in different ways. We have lots of different players, different qualities and different things they can do. We need every single player, we’ll try to do our best and then we'll take where it takes us.

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