ISL: All eyes on Habas as Pune City faces ATK

With seven matches to go in the league, Atletico de Kolkata will face bottom-placed FC Pune City at the Balewadi stadium on Sunday.

Antonio Habas

FC Pune City coach Antonio Habas will face his former club Atletico de Kolkata on Sunday.   -  Vivek Bendre

Jose Molina is building on the foundation work done by Atletico de Kolkata team management last season. After joining as head coach for Hero ISL season three, he kept faith in the players, especially foreigners, who in turn delivered on the pitch. With seven matches to go in the league, second-placed ATK will face FC Pune City at the Balewadi stadium on Sunday.

Molina explained the reason for continuity. “I had a say in retaining them. The players we have know the league and the conditions. They gave an excellent performance last season.” Joseph Arroyo, Ofentso Nato, Iain Hume, Sameeh Doutie are familiar foreign faces from season two. Borja Fernandez, Javier Lara are other influential names who played under Antonio Habas in the previous seasons.

Habas, head coach at FC Pune City now, will run into known faces during Sunday’s tie. With just one win in seven league matches so far, his task only gets tougher. The current ATK coach, aware of the past links, has a different view. “It is possible some of our players know Antonio. He knows some of our players. For me, it is just one more match.”

He added: “I know Antonio. He is a respected coach. When we play, the focus is to win three points and try to get close to the playoffs.” Finishing in the top four for the play-offs is also on Habas’ mind, though the situation has changed for the one-time ATK coach.

“In the first season with ATK, the effort was to reach the playoffs first, we got the title. The next season we tried to make the playoffs and got there (semifinals).”

Walking out to take on ATK at the Balewadi stadium with his side placed last is a new experience for Habas “Pune City is a team in the building-up phase, we will also try for the playoffs. Till the last moment, that will be our goal. We made mistakes on the pitch, but we will keep on fighting to get there.” The home team is on six points (three draws, one win) and is one point behind FC Goa (seven points).

For Molina's team, victory against a struggling side is enough to take ATK atop the league table. Asked about drawn games so far (Delhi Dynamos and Chennaiyin FC have maximum four draws each), he explained: “Teams play differently, but the level of play is close and winning a match is difficult in ISL.” No one knows it better than Habas, a 2014 winner and 2015 semifinalist who is still chasing a second win with a new team in 2016.

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