It’s that time of the Indian Super League (ISL 2021-22) when the famed Kolkata derby comes around! SC East Bengal will gun for its first win under new coach Manolo Diaz when it locks horns with its city rival ATK Mohun Bagan at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Goa.
The two sides have made contrasting starts to the season - SC East Bengal showed plenty of promise but was forced to settle for a draw with Jamshedpur FC, while ATK Mohun Bagan brought its A-game to the fore and stormed to a 4-2 triumph over Kerala Blasters.
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Diaz’s side will need to be watertight in defence to contain the dangerous ATK Mohun Bagan attack, which features the likes of Roy Krishna and Hugo Boumous.
“For me, the whole squad of ATKMB is a threat. Hugo and Krishna are good players who can score goals, but one or two players can’t win you a match. The team has to perform well collectively to win. So we’re making plans to stop the team instead of focusing on individuals,” said Diaz.
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The former Real Madrid B team coach added, “Our focus will be on minimising mistakes, having a strong structure, and capitalising on the weak points of ATKMB. We must be compact, give good, secure passes, and create opportunities in the attacking half because it becomes difficult if we’re defending the whole time.”
SC East Bengal lost both its games against ATK Mohun Bagan last season, and Diaz is keen to snap the losing streak. “I know it is only our second official match of the season, but we don’t want to come up with any excuses. We know ATKMB is a good team and is helmed by an able coach who has experience in the ISL, but we will try to do our best,” he said.
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ATK Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Habas, the only manager to have won the ISL title twice, has demanded greater intensity from his side. “We have to be more ambitious. In the second half of our last match, we weren’t as comfortable as we would like when they scored. We have to play the match with the same intensity for 90 minutes,” he said.
Considering all the history and iconic duels between the two teams, the Spaniard quipped, “The past doesn’t matter. We want to win the match and give 100% respect to the opponent.”