Small details will decide the ATK Mohun Bagan clash: Odisha FC’s Josep Gombau

Odisha FC head coach Josep Gombau has urged his players to focus on the small details that will help them win their upcoming game as his side squares off against ATK Mohun Bagan in matchweek 11 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

Being the only team in the league to have a 100% home win record this season, winning all four of their home games so far, the Kalinga Warriors stand a strong contention to make it to the playoffs for the first time in the club’s history.

Gombau expects a tough game from the Kolkata side and wants his team to show the same character as they did in the previous game against FC Goa in order to win the game and keep their home record intact.

The Spaniard also provided fresh updates on Saul Crespo’s injury, the possibilities of his side making it to the top six, and a lot more as he attended the official pre-match press conference alongside forward Jerry Mawihmingthanga ahead of the ATK Mohun Bagan match.

Here are the excerpts from Gombau’s press conference: 

It was a tough loss against FC Goa in the previous game. How do you tend to bounce back against a tougher opposition in ATK Mohun Bagan?

Gombau: For sure, we go game by game, and on Thursday, we have a very important game. We’re playing at home against a very good opposition in ATK Mohun Bagan. Last week, we did quite well in Goa, but the result wasn't on our side. We were 10 men and it was difficult for us, but the performance of the team, the approach of the team, the way we played even with 10 men, I’m very satisfied with the work put in by the players. With this aim and character, we go to the game on Thursday and try to get a positive result here at home.

Nandhakumar Sekar is out for this game. Who comes in to replace him?

Gombau: We have different options, different players that we can use in his position. We are working, we are training, thinking who will be the player that will replace Nandha but it’s something that of course, people will see on Thursday.

Saul Crespo looked uncomfortable as he made an early exit against FC Goa. Any update on him?

Gombau: Saul suffered a small injury against FC Goa. Now, we are checking if he can be available for Thursday and (whether) he can help us win this game.

The club earlier put out a statement regarding Isak Vanlalruatfela. What are your thoughts on it?

Gombau: Isak is a young and talented player who we see having a bright future. He is a player whom I personally like a lot and I think that he has a lot of potential. He spoke with us regarding two personal reasons because of which he has to return to his home for a while to (resolve) some difficulties his family is having at the moment. We got permission from the league so he can solve this problem as soon as possible and can come back and start training with us as soon as he can.

Back at home once more. The record has been phenomenal. What are your thoughts on the game against ATK Mohun Bagan?

Gombau: I think it will be a difficult and an equal game as the rest of the (Hero) ISL games are, especially for us. We are working hard and we’ll try to have a good game. For sure, we’ll hope to control the small details that normally decide the game, but there is more than that. For example, take (our) last week’s game (against FC Goa), the game was very equal, the first half, we had control of the game. When we went down to 10 men, it changed the game. 

I expect games like these where small details can change the game and I hope there are more such details coming from our side as it has happened in a lot of games, and we win the game through a small difference. I hope that Thursday is a big game against a very good team that we respect a lot, but also that we want to compete against them and win the game.

Six wins in nine games. Do you think this year, there is something special on the cards for your team, making it to the playoffs?

Gombau: We go game by game. The players know this and we don’t see it as we are close to the playoffs, no, we don’t approach it like this. On Thursday, there will be eleven games to go and after Thursday, we will be exactly halfway of the league. We played five games away and five games at home. I hope we get a good result in our game, and this means we have a good record.

Every single game is important, the three points are the same against every single team. When this is all finished, we’ll see where we are, and I hope we can reach the playoff spots, which is something nice. It is something we aim to be at, something that the club hasn’t achieved and we would be proud to do it and be in the playoffs.

Kalinga Stadium is your home ground. How are you and the team enjoying here? How has the experience been after playing so many teams?

Gombau: We are so happy to play here, we feel (at) home and we like to play here. We also feel when we play away, the games are more difficult. Here, we have the support of the fans, everything is in a very good condition. The groundsmen may be key for this year to make this very good stadium for us, and we are so happy. I hope that on Thursday, a lot of fans come because it is a big game against a good team that is close, Kolkata. And I hope that the people come to the stadium, support us, and they can leave with a smile in the stadium because this team will win.

Any special strategy has the team adapted to against ATK Mohun Bagan?

Gombau: We have a way to play the games and our kind of football that we play. Every single game, depending on the opposition team, we make small modifications. More modifications means that maybe in the build-up (play), we do some movements that make it easier for us to have the ball and to create chances depending on how the opposition can defend. Also the way that we press depends on the opposition team one way or another, but the philosophy, the way that we play, the way that we approach the games, the mentality will always remain the same. It doesn't matter who we play against, we always have the same way to approach the game.

Here are the excerpts from Jerry’s press conference:

You’ve been in good form and scoring goals. What do you have to say about your performance so far in this season?

Jerry: It's about the team that we have. This is not just about my role in the team, it’s teamwork, building from the back, and about the philosophy of the coach and his mentality that never wants us to give up and fight till the last minute. All these things I think work out together that helps us keep going. So even if we are 1-0 down or 2-0 down we believe in ourselves to get the result. So I think the most important is definitely the results we have here that tells us the game.

You’ve played under Josep Gombau in the 2019-20 season and it was a special season for you. What is the difference you find between that season and this season?

Jerry: I think I am more involved, to be honest, inside the box, which is what the coach wants me to do. I think I didn’t do this when he was there last season, but this season he wants to be inside the box which has helped me to get more opportunities to score.

What are your thoughts on the game against ATK Mohun Bagan?

Jerry: As the coach said, it’s going to be a tough opponent and they are a good side, but it's always interesting to play against a good side.

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