Jhingan expects a good contest as Kolkata derby takes centre stage again

One of the most high-profile derbies, not just in Indian football but also in Asian football, is once again upon us as current leaders ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal lock horns in the second Kolkata derby of the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) season at the Fatorda Stadium on Friday. The last time these team had met in what was also SC East Bengal’s first-ever game in the Hero ISL, the Mariners had come out on top with a 2-0 scoreline. Since then, a lot has happened: ATK Mohun Bagan have gone on to occupy the top position in the standings in addition to confirmation in the top-four. As far as SC East Bengal are concerned, things have not turned out as per fans’ expectations as they now find themselves out of semis contention. Be that as it may, Kolkata Derby means much more than just the positions on the points table and be rest assured SC East Bengal will leave no stone unturned to get a favourable result against their arch-rivals. Similarly, ATK Mohun Bagan will be equally motivated to do the double over the Red and Gold Brigade. Ahead of the much-anticipated derby, ATK Mohun Bagan defender Sandesh Jhingan took questions from the media and here we feature some of the most important ones. 

SC East Bengal are now a different team from the one you played last time around. Your thoughts.

I think both the teams – SC East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan – have improved from the last time we played each other. Of course, they have really good players. The first time we played them, you know, Anthony [Pilkington], [Jacques] Maghoma, Danny [Daniel Fox] at the back, they have good players in the squad. When I played them first, I didn’t expect them to be at their current position with due respect. I felt they were a very good side with top players. Bright [Enobakhare] as well has shown that he’s a good player and has scored some really good goals. They are a good side as are we. So, it’s going to be a good contest and in football, on a given day if you don’t perform to your best [ability], anyone can beat you. So, we have to play to our strengths and minimize their strengths. And try to be the better team on the day and get the three points.

Is there pressure on ATK Mohun Bagan to win this game in light of what is happening at the top of the table and also SC East Bengal playing for prestige?

For me, I don’t feel any pressure about finishing on top of the table. For me, it’s one game at a time, I learned the hard way that any game can be your last game. Any session can be your last session, so for me, I just want to get through today’s session then tomorrow’s session and then just play the game and hope that everyone comes out of it healthy. Pressure is the way you want to take it at the end of the day it’s just a football game. When you step on to the pitch, you just want to win and there can be a thousand things, top of the table, this – that but for players it’s just about the game. One game at a time and try your best to win it.

Does not conceding goals motivate strikers to score more? ATK Mohun Bagan have 10 clean sheets so far.

The strikers play a big role. It’s important for the defence not to concede. The defence and the goalkeeper have to play a big role for the striker to score as well, I think it works that way. Roy [Krishna] and everyone have been massive for us in the defensive part as well. If they don’t defend well up [the field] then we will keep getting attacked, if they don’t do the job up there and if we don’t bring the ball forward to the strikers then they will have fewer chances to score. So, it’s a collective thing. It’s just that as a team when you feel you can keep a clean sheet and that mentality [is] in the squad, you always have this spark in you that if you can keep it clean at the back then you’ll get a chance and just score. So, I think as a squad we have that attitude and mentality.

With Roy Krishna being in great form and at the top of the Golden Boot contenders list, do you think SC East Bengal will have special plans for him?

Even if he wasn’t near the top of the [Golden Boot] table, the opposition defence would still have to keep an eye on him because he’s got such tremendous quality in him. He’s fast, he’s strong, it’s hard to nudge him off the ball. Everything has this in their team I think… from the last time when I played [in Hero ISL 2018-19] till now the quality has gone up in the strikers department of any team. Every team has high quality strikers, so every defence is keeping a sharp eye on the striker but for us, of course, we have a top player in Roy, who is also the top-scorer [in the league] right now and I’m sure SC East Bengal have prepared for him and will be keeping an eye on him like we have been keeping an eye on all their strikers.

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