We have to keep trust in the players, the team, ourselves, and the football we play: ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando

ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando believes his side are motivated and trusts his players to accomplish the set targets as they square off against Chennaiyin FC in their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season opener at the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata, on Monday.

The 41-year-old, who took over as the head coach of the Mariners midway through last season and guided them to the semi-finals, is now leading a full-fledged new team who will start the 2022-23 season afresh and unscathed.

With several signings in the domestic and foreign contingent, Ferrando has instilled novel ideas in his team and is keen on working along with the players to deliver the desired results coming into the new season. Moreover, the Spaniard wants his side to focus on the Hero ISL and move on from the past performances and results of the AFC Cup Semi-finals and the Durand Cup.

The Mariners head coach addressed the media in an official pre-match press conference ahead of the game against Chennaiyin FC.

Here are the excerpts from Ferrando’s press conference:

The Durand Cup and the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semi-finals has given you a lot of experience in getting to know your team. Now that the new season is coming up, do you think you have known your team a lot better than before and can lead them to silverware this season?

Firstly, the most important thing is that all three are different competitions. Of course, for us 12 months ago, our connection was different, and now we’ve started with a different competition and I’m happy because the players are ready and everyone wants to help the team. I think at this moment for us, the most important thing is to try to give our best because we are very motivated and in front of us, there exists a good challenge.

Monday’s match will be a difficult one against Chennaiyin FC. How prepared are ATK Mohun Bagan?

All the matches are difficult, there does not exist an easy match. But, this is our target and mentality, to improve day-by-day, to try and find a solution to the opponent’s problems and play football. It is simple, try to play football, try to find spaces, try to use the spaces, and convert our opportunities to goals.

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Do you think the expectations of the Kolkata crowd will play a big part in your team going forward in the season? Will it be too much of a pressure for your team to handle?

Every day is a new day, and thinking about pressure is just losing your energy. The most important thing is about having trust in our plan, trust in the team, and trust in ourselves. This team has got very good players and some great talents. Of course, sometimes you need to follow the process and this is the equation in football, but this is a team with no pressure. It is (the process) to trust the team and the football we play.

Usually we see teams play friendlies before important competitions and leagues. Since the AFC Cup, we haven’t seen ATK Mohun Bagan play any friendlies as such. Any reason behind it, and do you think it will affect your team?

No, that is not the case with our team. We had a lot of players with injuries (after the AFC Cup), and following that it became difficult as many of our players went into the national camp. At one moment during our training session, only six players were available for training.

As seen in the Durand Cup and in the AFC Cup Semi-final, the team is missing a general in the striking department. Do you think Dimitri Petratos can solve this problem?

In my view, the problem arises when we don’t create many chances. If you saw the game against Kuala Lumpur City FC in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semi-finals, we weren’t clinical in front of the goal. This team creates a lot of chances, this team keeps the ball in the midfield, they try to find spaces, they have a lot of opportunities, then sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t in front of the goal.

Maybe, the problem is also when we lose the ball and don’t do well in transitioning, our focus in the last minute is not present. So this is a problem for us and not the striker.

With Brendan Hamill and Dimitri Petratos both available for the match. Will we see Ashique Kuruniyan move into a wing-back position or will he play more of a forward role?

In this case, we have Rana [Ravi], Ashique, Engson [Singh], Rai [Asish], but the important aspect here is that they understand the concepts in attack because sometimes these positions are difficult as you have to know at what moment we are playing attacking. Of course, they have quality, and in the case of Ashique, he has talent, but most importantly, it is this talent inside the team to know what is the best moment to create spaces, what is the moment to attack into the spaces.

Sometimes this is necessary to work because you know it's difficult to get into that habit which will only happen training by training, game by game, it’s not so easy. But this season, I hope Ashique for me, most importantly is that he is enjoying on the field and 100% helping the team, and that is the first goal for us.

What is the fitness status of Kiyan Nassiri Giri and Asish Rai?

We're working now. We have been training and we will decide the squad at the last moment. But now, all the players are working. All the players have an individual plan and then we work with a team. But now I’m happy because everybody is more or less ready. Now the most important thing is trying to find who is more fit and ready for the team. But honestly, this situation is not only now, two weeks ago it was a very difficult moment because there were a lot of injuries, but now I'm very happy.

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Any lessons from the AFC Cup?

We’ve been talking about it all the time and I’m disappointed about the result (in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semi-finals). It’s normal and we were very close to making the final. In the end we lost against a good team because Kuala Lumpur City FC is now in the final of the AFC Cup. After that result, I was thinking about our future. The future is the Hero ISL and we’re thinking about the game against Chennaiyin FC. To lose time, to lose energy about the past results is not good. I think it's time to think now about the present. The present is Chennaiyin FC. Enjoy the match, enjoy the time, prepare the team and improve everybody, day by day. This is the target. The AFC Cup, the Durand Cup is in the past, it’s not possible to change it.

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