ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando opened up on his team's taxing injury-riddled season, and feels that they are back on track ahead of their upcoming game against Mumbai City FC in Matchweek 15 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Saturday.

The Mariners sit fourth in the standings with 23 points and will look to use the home advantage to try and put an end to the Islanders unbeaten run, who are at the top of the table with 33 points, 10 points clear of the hosts.

Having recorded seven wins, two draws, and three losses out of 12 games, the Green and Maroons haven’t had an easy outing so far in the season, with huge blows to key personnel in the team. Facing Mumbai City FC will be a daunting task but Ferrando backed his team to prove their mettle and regain their winning mentality.

“The last two months we could not work on the team in the training sessions because we had a lot of injuries. Now, more or less, we are much better in this situation, we are improving in some aspects. I think the performance of Mumbai City FC has been good. For us, it’s the mentality to try and get the three points and not pay attention to Mumbai City FC’s recent form. Our focus is in the present, in our style, in our mentality, and our plan is to try and get the three points as we play at home,” Ferrando stated in the official pre-match press conference.

The injury list has been unceasing for the Mariners, with defender Deepak Tangri joining the list of Joni Kauko, Florentin Pogba, Manvir Singh, and Tiri. Having signed replacements in defender Slavko Damjanovic and midfielder Federico Gallego in the foreign player section, Ferrando asserted that the club is going through a turbulent period but was confident of his side coming through. 

“This season has been difficult for us, but I’m happy because for the first time after our first game of the season against Chennaiyin FC, we have all six foreign players. This is the truth. I’m happy we all trained together last week. In this case it is difficult but it is a step-by-step process. (Deepak) Tangri went through a surgery last Monday and it is difficult for the club to prepare for the matches with a lot of injuries to important players. But, this is a part of football, we have to continue with an unchanged mentality and fight for the three points,” he said.

Indian forwards Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte have been running the show for Mumbai City FC this season, contributing towards 18 of the 40 goals the team has scored this season. The Spaniard was wary of the wingers’ involvements but urged his players to not single out one player and focus on working as a team unit in order to stop their winning streak.

“The performance of the Mumbai City FC wingers this season has been amazing. I think 50% of the team are their wingers. The success of their wingers this season and their win rate have been incredible. But we pray to play like a team because, in the end, it is 11 vs 11. In this case, if we are playing as a team, it is much better to not put attention on one player such as Bipin (Singh), (Lallianzuala) Chhangte, Greg (Stewart), (Ahmed) Jahouh, which I think is not the way of football we want to play,” he said.

The head coach is aware of the injury crisis at the club and is glad to have the whole team on the same level, having found the balance to progress with a much stronger mindset in the second half of the season.

“In our case, it is important for us to find the moments, and we will create opportunities in front of the opponent on Saturday. We are working together, and all the players are ready, which is good for the team even though injuries have been a big problem for us this season, but I want to start the new year in a better way,” he added.

ATK Mohun Bagan enjoyed a 15-day resting period after the win against FC Goa at home, and considering the injury-riddled squad, the head coach expressed how tough it was for the team to undergo practise sessions.

“December was very difficult for the team, and it is not an excuse, but this is the reason (injuries) that we had to work with six to seven players every week. In professional football, you need 22 players. This season was very tough for us,” stated Ferrando.

The Mariners’ recent acquisition, Federico Gallego, also accompanied Juan Ferrando in the pre-match press conference.

Gallego, who has been a part of the Hero ISL for the last four seasons with NorthEast United FC, will aim to be the requisite midfield player that can add the missing creativity to the game. The midfielder left early in the Hero ISL 2021-22 season due to a grievous injury, but is now fully recovered and confident of achieving big things with his new team.

“The day since I left India, I have been following the games here. I have very good friends here. So, my target was to come back here to play again and to show that I could still play here. It was an amazing feeling for me when ATK Mohun Bagan called me because I know how big is this club, the pressure of playing for the club. I will try to do my best and show them that I can go back and play my game,” Gallego said in the official pre-match press conference.