The Kolkata Derby is always a 50-50 game: ATK Mohun Bagan’s Pritam Kotal

ATK Mohun Bagan captain Pritam Kotal has dismissed his team’s favourites tag in the upcoming Kolkata Derby as they lock horns with arch-rivals East Bengal FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Saturday.

ATKMB boast of a perfect win record in the Kolkata Derby, having beaten their rivals in all of their four meeting during the past two Hero ISL season. Juan Ferrando's side will once again start as favourites, but they will face a tricky challenge from their rivals, who look like a different unit under head coach Stephen Constantine.

Kotal, who attended the pre-match press conference alongside ATKMB head coach Ferrando, said he would treat the derby like any other game. The defender also spoke about his side’s chances in the upcoming Kolkata derby, playing in front of fans, and more.

Here are the excerpts from Kotal's press conference:

ATK Mohun Bagan have not been able to keep a clean sheet. What do you think has gone wrong?

As a defence, we always need to improve. Last season, we had different players and this season too, we have some new faces in the defensive line. So it does take time, but we are working hard. We work as a team and we win or lose as a team. We will take it match by match, we are improving and hopefully, by the end of the season we can be an improved defensive unit.

As one of the most experienced players in ATKMB's defence, how do you plan on keeping East Bengal's attack quiet?

It's not only about East Bengal FC. I have some responsibilities as a defender and my target is to always stop the opposition team from initiating attacks. If I played against Mumbai City FC or Kerala Blasters FC, my approach would be the same as against East Bengal. We are thinking about our team.

Stephen Constantine has said he wants a hat-trick from Cleiton Silva. As a senior defender of the opposition team, how do you react to that?

On Saturday, it will be proved whether he can score a hat-trick or not. I am not the only one who has the responsibility to stop him. Everyone in our team can do it. We play as a team. East Bengal will also play as a team and won’t depend on Silva only to attack. With due respect to Silva, all I can say is, we will settle the matter on the pitch. It can’t be said like this in a press conference.

Sourav Ganguly may come to watch the derby. How much this motivate you?

We heard that Dada may come. Definitely, it will motivate us. But we have to give our hundred percent to win the match.

Is there pressure on ATKMB given the favourites tag?

The derby is always a 50-50 game from my past experiences. Both the teams will give their everything. Both teams want to win and the favourites tag does not matter. We don’t feel any pressure.  

How do you give confidence to the players who have not played in front of big crowds?

We already played against Kerala Blasters FC, where there were 70,000 plus people in the stands. Everyone knows about the Kolkata Derby and the atmosphere. It’s just another match for us and we have to give our best.

As a player who can play in different positions, how do you mentally prepare yourself?

If you are a player who can play in only one position, it becomes difficult for the coach. My roles are different in different positions. So I need to show the coach the ability to play in different positions. You have to prepare differently when you are playing as a full-back or centre-back, but I can play in any position, except as a goalkeeper (laughs). So I try to give my best and try to improve game by game.

 

 

 

 

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