We have to play every match like a final: ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando

ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando said his target was to play in the AFC Champions League and for that, his team needed to treat every Hero Indian Super League (ISL) game like a final. On a four-match unbeaten streak in Hero ISL 2022-23, ATK Mohun Bagan face FC Goa in their next challenge at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Goa, on Sunday.

Ferrando will be up against his former side FC Goa, having guided the Gaurs to their first-ever Durand Cup trophy before joining ATK Mohun Bagan last season. There’s just a point separating the two sides at the moment with fourth-placed ATKMB one spot above FC Goa.

FC Goa take ATK Mohun Bagan after an away defeat to Kerala Blasters, while Ferrando’s side have been unbeaten since their opening game this season. However, Ferrando believes the home team will pose a threat for ATKMB despite losing their last game. Ferrando, who was accompanied by forward Kiyan Nassiri in the pre-match press conference, also reiterated that he’s never satisfied with his team’s performance as he believes the Mariners can always improve collectively.

Here are the excerpts from Ferrando’s press conference:

How different is it to be a coach of a big team like ATK Mohun Bagan as compared to your days at FC Goa?

A lot of things have been the same. As a coach, you have a lot of responsibilities and of course, in this club, the pressure is more as the supporters always demand victory. My responsibility here is to improve the club, the players, the staff, and the people have been more or less the same. I have tried to do my best with both clubs.

Do you feel that the ATK Mohun Bagan has a squad better than everyone else and can become champions?

Of course! Our target is to be on the top of the table. I think two years ago when I was with FC Goa, it was important to be in the AFC Champions League, because when you are in the AFC Champions League you can improve like a team, like a club and you can improve the football in India. This is our mentality. We are working hard every day to be on the top of the table at the end of the season. At this moment, with all my respect, five to six teams are fighting for the title. We have to play every match like a final.

FC Goa has brought new players into the team, how tough of a match are you expecting against them?

Our next opponent is a very strong team. Their performances at the start of the season were very good. They have brilliant players as you can see by their CVs; Alvaro (Vazquez), Iker (Guarrotxena), and (Marc) Valiente have three brilliant players on their team. FC Goa is a great team, they are compact and a strong opponent. It is going to be a difficult match and it’s going to be a great match for the supporters and the audience.

Are you happy with the team’s performance so far?

I’m never completely happy because I know we can improve every day. I know this squad is very good, I have very good players but the most important thing is to work step by step on important things. In the Hero ISL, they give out Hero of the Match (award), (and) sometimes it makes things hard as football is a team game, not an individual one. Our target for the future and at present is to work collectively. Of course, next season we will work on tactical and technical aspects of the game. Everybody needs to understand that football is a team sport and we will prepare like that.

FC Goa is coming to this match with a 3-1 loss against Kerala Blasters FC in the previous match while your team has remained unbeaten in the last four games. Do you think this will give your side an added advantage heading into the game?

I repeat that the performance of FC Goa at the start of the season was very good. I think they started the season by reaching the top three. Against Kerala Blasters FC, in the last five minutes of the first half, the team was out of the contest, it’s difficult when the team is down 0-2. I think FC Goa has a clear plan this season, with a lot of tactical points. The quality of the players, the crosses, and the team is quite good and they will be in the playoffs for sure.

Ever since you have been in India, you have been yearning to play in front of the fans. Finally, you will be playing in front of the fans but in the opposition’s dugout. What are your feelings about how all this has come about?

It’s difficult because with the Covid situation when I was with FC Goa, it was a very difficult situation. Now I’m enjoying it as we played away in Kochi, we played away in Mumbai and for the players, it’s a pleasant thing to play in front of the supporters. Here in Goa, a lot of supporters love football and they are coming to see a good match of football.

FC Goa plays good football, and ATK Mohun Bagan tries to play good football and they (fans) are coming to support their team. For me, it’s a good thing when there are a lot of fans in the stadium, be it a home match or an away one, the atmosphere is brilliant. The most important thing for me is that step by step the stadiums will be full.

Here are the excerpts from Nassiri’s press conference:

How has your experience been in the ATK Mohun Bagan dressing room as a young player being there along with all the high profile and experienced players?

It’s a very star-studded team but it’s not like players are being individuals, everyone is happy with the atmosphere.

How much has your life changed after your brilliant hat trick with ATK Mohun Bagan?

Yeah, there have been changes but I try to not let it get to my head and affect my life that much. The day-to-day changes have mostly been the same.

How important is it for a young player that the coach trusts him and how has this affected your performance in the last few seasons?

When the coach shows trust, it’s a big thing for me. Not only for me but for any young player. It’s a big confidence boost knowing that you have a playing spot amongst all the players. The coach helps us by giving us details about matches and training.

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