Mohun Bagan SG head coach Antonio Lopez Habas urged his players to complete the circle with a victory against Mumbai City FC in the forthcoming final match in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.

This will be the third appearance for the Mariners (joint most by any team) in the ISL final and the second face-off between Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan SG in the ISL Cup-winning fixture. The last time both sides locked horns against each other in the final was in the ISL 2021–22 season, where the Islanders emerged victorious through Bipin Singh’s injury-time winner.

Despite experiencing several ups and downs throughout the season, Habas’ men maintained their positive dynamics till the final league stage game, where they edged past Petr Kratky’s Mumbai City FC to register their maiden ISL League triumph. However, it’s going to be an action reply to the Shield decider match, where one of the best two teams will be engaged in an edge-closer fight for the ultimate reward.

Despite Mumbai City FC have their highest winning percentage (67%) against Mohun Bagan SG, Habas believes that in a title-deciding game, none can be considered a favorite. The experienced head coach acknowledged their impeccable home crowd support but wanted his players to stay committed to their game considering the significance of this match.

“There are no favourites in a final. I don’t want to be a favourite in a final,” Habas said in the pre-final press conference.

“All matches are different, and one move in the first minute can change the history of the match. We have to concentrate. For me, it’s tough to choose one team as the favourite in the final. We have the advantage in regards to the massive supporters, but the supporters don’t play on the pitch,” he added.

In the long ten-year history of the ISL, Habas is considered one of the most successful coaches in the league. Notably, Habas, who is set to feature in his fourth ISL final (which is the highest tally by any head coach), is the only head coach to win the ISL final multiple times.

But Habas didn’t want to focus on his past success; rather, he was optimistic about doing well against the Islanders to defend the ISL Cup.

“Evidently, in ISL history, yes. But for me, the stats are irrelevant. Football is somewhere we need to think about the here and now. We are in a good feeling, but our idea is to compete on Saturday and win the trophy,” he shared.

“It’s good to remember (the history), and we also have a bad memory of losing a final against Mumbai City FC. But now it’s (totally) different; we are thinking about the final,” he added.

Mohun Bagan SG won the Durand Cup and the ISL League Shield in the 2023–24 season and are on the verge of completing the domestic treble ahead of the high-voltage final. Habas revealed that it was always their primary objective to clinch the Shield and the ISL Cup this season, and these are what they have been fighting for since his very first day.

“We have to complete the circle. We have to complete the target of this season,” he stated.

“When I first joined the team, I told my players that we knew the way to win the league and the trophy (the ISL Cup), and the players were evidently with me in the same (pursuit). It’s most important,” he added.

Habas remarked that his players don’t want to let the game go for extra time. The confident head coach also mentioned that they are looking forward to settling the game at the earliest without taking any extra risk but are totally prepared to fight if the game lasts for 120 minutes.

“We want to win the match in 45 minutes,” he commented.

“The coach never wants a game to go to extra time because, after such intense training, matches and hot temperatures make it so difficult for the players. We are ready for extra time and penalties if it’s necessary,” he concluded.

 

Subhasish Bose, Dimitri Petratos, and Sahal Abdul Samad accompanied his head coach ahead of the final match of the season. All the players shared their excitement before the decisive fixture and wanted to stay focused on their absolute target.

It’s a dream for us to win the treble: Subhasish Bose

The captain left-back shared how his players are gearing up to secure another trophy to their name in front of their thousands of supporters to make their season more memorable.

“There is a trophy in front of us; all of our players are ready and have the desire to play (well) in front of our home supporters. We’ll enter the pitch with not only 11 players but also with the strength and support of our numerous Mariners,” Bose shared.

Speaking about their possibilities of winning the treble, the Kolkata-born defender said,

“We give our best to win every single trophy.”

“I’ve seen how hard this squad has worked over the last eight months, in terms of the players' dedication and giving their own. Winning this trophy is very important, and it’s a dream for us to win the treble this season. We can write a new chapter on our illustrious history with the treble,” he added.

Kolkata is like my home: Dimitri Petratos

Dimitri Petratos heaped praise on their fans, who have been showering their unwavering support, energizing their team with more enthusiasm.

“It’s the fans. I think we got a lot of energy from the fans. Sometimes we can’t ever hear each other on the field, but that’s a good thing. 60 thousand-plus people (in the stands). It’s been more than three or four games, and this is amazing. Everybody is looking forward to playing in our home ground with the amazing fans that we have,” Petratos stated.

With his game-changing performances since his first day, Petratos has a special place in every Mariners’ heart. Sharing his thoughts on his time in the city and their football culture, the Aussie forward said,

“I am enjoying my time here; I love my football; I love my time in India; Kolkata is like my home; playing with kids comes naturally to me; I enjoy that; and if I can inspire a single kid, I will be happy."

Being a winner is a special feeling for a player: Sahal Abdul Samad

Sahal Abdul Samad scored the winning goal against Odisha FC in the second semi-final and fashionably celebrated his goal. Revealing the excerpts of his celebration, Samad said,

“It’s nothing, but I just wanted to let everyone know ‘I’m still here’, to help the team in every way possible.”

The creative midfielder seemed very excited to play in the ISL final with Mohun Bagan SG and win his first-ever ISL Cup in his club career.

“Of course, as a player, I always want to win. No matter if it’s a final or against a small-sided team, I want to win everything. I am giving my best, working harder, and being a winner is a special feeling for a player,” he said.

“I want to play my first final. Obviously, the feeling is different, but the situation and the work have not changed. We are working hard, preparing for the game, and will be ready for tomorrow,” Samad signed off.