The eagerly-anticipated Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 final is scheduled to take place between two of the best teams of the season, Mumbai City FC led by Petr Kratky, and Mohun Bagan Super Giant led by Antonio Habas. Both clubs will compete for the ISL Cup on Saturday at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata.

Throughout the current season, both the Islanders and the Mariners have had a remarkably similar campaign. The weren't on top of the table for majority of the campaign and then, a mid-season change in head coaches followed. However, they managed to bounce back and showed a rise in dominance during the business end of the league. 

As a result of their strong performances, both teams finished off the league fixtures in the top two spots. They then went on to the playoffs, where they saw off the competition and rightfully earned a spot in the grand finale of this season.

When we look back at the last time the Islanders faced the Mariners in the Shield decider this season, Mumbai City FC lost to the Mariners in a match of fine margins. This loss was a major setback for the Islanders, who had been one of the strongest teams in the league throughout the season. 

The press conference before the final began with Mumbai City FC's head coach, Peter Kratky, discussing how the team has coped with their loss in the League Shield decider.

"Look it's always difficult because we knew what was at stake. We came here to fight for the Shield and unfortunately, we lost the game," he said.

"It's always hard for the team and the players, so we try to regroup after the game and pull ourselves to get up. It's very important we stick together through good times and through hard times. The bounce back is important. It wasn't an easy couple of training sections afterwards, spirites were a little bit down but we bounced back. Now we are in a good place to continue on it," he elaborated during the final press conference. 

Kratky emphasised that he respected his opponents, but Saturday's game will be different.

"We have to respect Mohun Bagan SG's quality but we also know our quality. So, I think it'll be a very good and exciting game and I think we have the same quality to win the game," he said.

"So. we just go for it. And regardless if you play away or home, I think at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what had happened before. Now, it's the new game, it's the one-off game. It's a final and I think we have the same chance to win as them," he explained.

He continued, "I think we need to approach the game a little bit differently because it's final."

"I think we learned from the previous game. I think we started a little bit differently than we wanted to last game. And that caught us in the end. So, now we will come here to play our football from the first minute, you know. So, I think that the approach will be changed because we are here to compete and try to win the game. And try to win it in 90 minutes. If it's going longer, go longer. We are ready. The boys are strong and fit," he added.

The Australian hinted at his plans to tactically stop and exploit Mohan Bagan SG in a different way than last time.

"We are always coming up with some tactics and again we are looking at what Mohun Bagan SG have done during the season and how they play and how they change what they do," he said.

"This is basically a summary of how we look at this game. When Mohun Bagan SG's wingbacks go forward they leave a space behind them, and on Saturday we have to see where we can expose them and find the keys. We can always have some game plans but it's down to how we play, and find the space where we can attack and score goals. I can't say that's our tactics, going one way or another because we will have to look at what we will change," he stated.

During the final pre-match press conference, the team's head coach, Kratky, was joined by the squad's captain, Rahul Bheke, and their reliable midfielders, Jayesh Rane and Alberto Noguera.

Alberto Noguera: It's a final, It's a different game

Alberto Noguera shared his thoughts on the season's finale, stating that while it will be a challenging game, it won't be the same as the last time these two teams played.

"It's a final, It's a different game it's true that last gave we lost but it's on us to show how good we are and everything that happens, as we said many times we are ready, we will go for it, finals a final 50-50, and we will see it tomorrow," he stated during the press conference. 

Jayesh Rane: We want to win trophies no matter what

Jayesh Rane shared his thoughts on playing in a big final against the Kolkata-based club, where he used to play. He also discussed his mindset going into a tough game.

He shared, "It was an honour to play for Mohan Bagan SG before. But now I'm in Mumbai. So, it'll be a tough game for both teams. But yes, we are here as footballers. We want to win trophies. no matter what."

Rahul Bheke: My only thing was to give that message in the right way

Rahul Bheke was asked to explain his role as skipper in helping the team adjust to the style of Peter Kratky after Des Buckingham left, as well as his role as a senior player during the transition.

"When coach left, I think the things that we did under him we just wanted to continue," he said.

"But there were some of the changes. If there were any changes the coach wanted to bring in, I used to always make sure that I understood and that I conveyed the message in the right way to the players so that they understood what we had to do in the rest of the games. So, I think that was the only thing that I tried my best to do to help my teammates," Bheke responded as the press conference concluded