ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando feels the upcoming Matchweek in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) will be crucial, with teams above them also facing some tricky fixtures in the upcoming days.

ATK Mohun Bagan, who occupy the third place on the standings, face fifth-placed Odisha FC, who are just a point behind them at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar on Thursday. Meanwhile table-toppers Hyderabad FC and second-placed Mumbai City FC face Bengaluru FC and East Bengal FC in away matches respectively.

Ferrando, who attended the pre-match press conference alongside defender Brandan Hamill, said despite the chance to beat Odisha FC and go up the table, his team is motivated to win every game. The Spaniard, whose squad has been ravaged by injury, also said that he is working closely with the club to bring in new faces in the ongoing transfer window.

Here are the excerpts from Ferrando:

The team’s performance is gradually improving every game. What is your aim for the next match?

Ferrando: Thursday won’t be so easy as these three teams - Hyderabad FC, Mumbai City FC and Odisha FC - are very strong and their performance has been very good. We will be playing away and it’s difficult when you play away because you know the situation and they are a very good team. They have very good players and their performance has been very good. It will be a difficult match. We have prepared a plan (for Odisha FC), I hope we have success because this week is very important for us.

A win against Odisha FC will take you to the top of the table. Does that serve as added motivation?

Ferrando: For us, we’re motivated all the time as we want to get the three points. Honestly, I think it’s most important to be at the top of the table at the end of the season. Now, more or less, it’s not really our target. The most important thing is to prepare for the match because it’s not so easy. I hope we get three points. But we will see what will happen because East Bengal FC play against Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC play against Bengaluru FC.

Odisha FC have been scoring late in their matches this season. Have you planned anything for that situation?

Ferrando: No, it depends on the match. It doesn't matter when the goals are scored, the matches are for 90 minutes and in extra time. During this time, you can score. The most important thing is to create opportunities and try to get the three points and win the match. This is the target. The time is not important.

You had a lot of young players on the bench for the last game. Your thoughts?

Ferrando: For me, it’s not a problem. We have 27 players in our squad and I don’t see their age or CV. I prepare all of them for the match and then we decide the line up because we have a plan. We make a decision about who is best for the plan. I don’t see whether they are young or not young. We prepare the team and for me, young players are of the same level with experienced or foreign players. It’s not important because honestly, football is a team sport and you play like a team. If you play like a team, all the players are of the same level. Of course, sometimes players with a lot of experience know more about the plan. They learn immediately about some details in attack and defence. Some players need to learn about the process of the team, but this is normal and a part of football.

Here are the excerpts from Hamill:

How has he been playing alongside the likes of Pritam Kotal, Subhasish Bose and Asish Rai in defence?

Hamill: We have won three games on the trot. Game by game, we are sort of building better connections with regards to our structure, with and without the ball. There’s a lot more to come and a lot more improvement (we need to do) with and without the ball from the whole team. I am enjoying playing with the boys and there is a lot of hard work to do. We’re not even halfway through the season yet so we know there is a lot of hard work to do and daily grinds, where we have to come in, work and focus and try to improve because that’s the only way we can reach our target. We take it game by game and session after session, so we need to continue the hard work.

The team’s defence has looked sharp since Joni Kauko’s injury. But with recurring injuries in the squad, how difficult is it to cope up with the situation?

Hamill: As the coach said, we have the squad. It’s unfortunate (Kauko’s injury) and we miss him. He’s a top quality professional on the field and off the field. Yes we miss him, but we have a big squad with a lot of talent. Like I mentioned before, it’s coming in everyday with the right mindset and hard work apart from building connections with and without the ball and trying to implement everything the gaffer has put his work into and how we go about achieving our target. It comes down to hard work and we’re all speaking the same language of football. Not that it’s easy but we speak the same language and we all love it. So, it’s just hard work every day and we have to enjoy that in the process of going up (the table).

Who is the toughest striker you have faced so far this season?

Hamill: We have the best striker (Dimitri Petratos) in our team, but every team has its threats, with and without the ball. There’s different styles, there are classic No 9’s and there are players running behind the defence. Every game, you have to be on your toes. You have to be switched on and concentrated. Right now, I can’t name one because every attacker has their own strengths and you have to adapt to every game. If you have a lapse in concentration, it’s easy for them to score. So every striker and forward in this league has been dangerous.