East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat believes that the team needs to harness the passionate support from the fans to make their home ground a tough place to visit for opposition teams as they aim to reach the knockout stages of the Indian Super League (ISL) for the first time in their history. 

The Red and Gold brigade begin their season at home against Jamshedpur FC on Monday and will be keen to bring the momentum from the Durand Cup where they reached the final. 

“We need to take advantage of playing at home,” Cuadrat said at the pre-match press conference. 

“In the first half of the season, we are going to play many games at home, and with the atmosphere that we create with the fans, we have to go for a win at home in every match. It's important to make our stadium a fortress. I believe the supporters are on the same page,” he added. 

The Spaniard underlined the importance of the Durand Cup campaign which has helped change the mood around the team after a disappointing last few seasons. The cup run that saw them beat arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the group stage has brought fresh hope to the fans ahead of the ISL. 

“It was important to start the project with that kind of success because East Bengal FC was in a bad football dynamic for the last few years,” Cuadrat said. 

“That was my message after the first Durand Cup match that we have to change the dynamic of this football club. We can't just fall down and repeat the same mistakes. I am very happy that the players understood that and we beat Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the next match. We are the only team to beat them in the nine matches they have played this season. So we have to trust ourselves and keep going in the same dynamic,” he added. 

Cuadrat further heaped praise on the supporters for sticking with the team during the bad phase and helping the team turn the tide. 

“We have already established a very good connection with the fans. They were helping us a lot during the Durand Cup. There were many special moments like the comeback against NorthEast United FC, the penalties and even the final. We were not getting the result but they were helping us,” the 54-year-old said. 

Jamshedpur FC will also be looking to improve their performances after an underwhelming campaign last term and will arrive in Kolkata with a point to prove. Cuadrat has thus urged his side to be fully competitive in order to face the opponent. 

“We don't have a lot of information about them because they haven't been playing any official matches. But it's not an excuse. We have to prepare for the match, prepare our plan and execute it well to get our first victory of the season,” the head coach said. 

The Spaniard also expressed delight at midfielder Naorem Mahesh signing a contract extension with the club that will keep him in Kolkata till 2027. 

“Mahesh signing a new contract gives a very good message to the supporters that he is the first one believing in the project,” Cuadrat said. 

“This should be the turning point for the future of the club to see that the players want to be here despite getting offers from other clubs,” he added. 

Veteran Harmanjot Khabra accompanied Cuadrat for the pre-match press conference and expressed gratitude for being given the chance to wear the Red and Gold stripes again. Khabra who spent seven years at East Bengal from 2007 to 2016 has returned to Kolkata for a second spell. 

“I think playing for East Bengal can be the best thing that can happen to a player in Indian football. I am enjoying being part of this project,” he said during the press conference. 

“When I left in 2016, and now when I come back, I can feel the same passion in the fans and I missed it,” he added.

“I want to be competitive on the pitch and give my everything. We achieved something by reaching the Durand Cup final, but this is just the start of our journey,” he concluded.