Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonia Lopez Habas ispreparing for a tough challenge as they travel to face Odisha FC in the first leg of the first semi-final of the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.

The Mariners finished off the league stage at the top of the table in the ISL 2023-24 season excelling in both their offensive and defensive displays. With 48 points from 22 matches, Habas’ men bagged the League Shield winning the last match of the league stage against Mumbai City FC.

The Kalinga Warriors, on the other hand, finished fourth on the league table, and having overcome a playoff challenge against Kerala Blasters FC, made it to the semi-finals in top form. 

With both their league stage encounters concluding on level terms, the two teams will be set to deliver their best and make it through to the grand finale. 

The head coach is ready for a tough challenge ahead against Odisha FC. 

They’re a very difficult opponent because they have a good coach (Sergio Lobera), they have players with experience of winning titles. Not easy. It will be a difficult match for us, but we have to prepare for the match,” stated Habas in the post-match press conference. 

Sharing insights into his mindset ahead of the match, he added, “We have to play the match with the same responsibility as if it’s one match of the league. 90 minutes, we have to win to be first in the League and finished. And to win, that has to be the mentality for us.”

Mohun Bagan SG will take the pitch fresh from a thrilling 2-1 win over Mumbai City FC, which sealed them the League Shield. 

On being asked whether the Shield success has had any negative impact on the players, Habas responded, “I have the responsibility to activate the player in this situation. This is my work now. Because now the training is practically impossible to improve them on the field.”

He continued, “Now, the most important thing is the intelligence of the players playing this match.”

Odisha FC talisman Roy Krishna will face his former team, and former coach with a place in the final at stake. During his tenure under Habas, Krishna bagged himself the Hero of the Season prize for his exceptional performance in the 2020-21 season. 

The Spanish tactician is still full of affection towards the Fijian forward but believes, that in football, they are not friends but opponents. 

“Surely, I will give him one hug before and after the match. But now my interest is in my team. In football there are no friends, there are opponents,” shared Habas.

Midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad is back in the squad making his return from an injury. The 27-year-old has scored a goal and assisted four in his 13 appearances so far in the league. 

Giving an injury update on his players, he shared, “He (Sahal) is perfectly 100% fine. All I have to say now, is we have all the squad available for playing this match.”

I'm very happy because the commitment to the project until now is 100%,” he commented. 

I will do my best wherever I am needed: Liston Colaco

Forward Liston Colaco accompanied the head coach to the press conference. 

Contributing to eight goals so far this season, including four goals and four assists, Colaco was instrumental in Mohun Bagan SG’s League Shield success. 

Sharing his insights about the upcoming semi-finals, he said, “They are also a very good team. I can say I have seen them also. They just play to win. Obviously, every team plays to win, so I expect the same from the opponent. But, it's a semi-final and anything can happen. So we are also ready to play against Odisha.”

The 25-year-old stated that he would give his best for the team wherever needed.

“My goal for the semi-final is to help my team in all possible ways. Maybe I can help my team in scoring a goal. Or maybe I can help my team in saving a goal. So I will do my best,” he stated. 

Summarising the season, he opined, “I think personally, for me, I think this is the best season that I have provided so much and in some important games. So, this season is important. But I think I won the Shield for the first time, so it's very special for me. And, I think if we win the ISL Cup, then it will be more special for me.”