ISL 2020-21, Kolkata derby: We have to play like champion to win, Mohun Bagan’s Kotal

ISL 2020: ATK Mohun Bagan has started off on a positive note beating Kerala Blasters and is keen to sustain the winning momentum with SC East Bengal up next.

Prtiam Kotal is among the five skippers at ATK Mohun Bagan this ISL season.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

Five days before their much-anticipated first Indian Super League meeting against traditional rival SC East Bengal, the Bengal brigade of ATK Mohun Bagan is upbeat and working on the mental aspect of the game.

The Antonio Lopez Habas-coached side has started off on a positive note beating Kerala Blasters and is keen to sustain the winning momentum.

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Pritam Kotal, who wore the captain’s armband against Kerala, said it’s advantage green and maroon brigade and they have to play like “champions“.

“We will definitely be a bit ahead mentally in Friday’s derby after winning the Kerala match. We were the champions last year. So we have to play like champions, that’s what I am telling everyone,” Kotal, who is ATKMB’s most experienced derby campaigner having featured in 13 of them, said here.

For the likes of Fijian star Roy Krishna, David Williams, Edu Garcia or Tiri, it will be a first-time experience after ATK’s merger with Mohun Bagan.

But the team is not short on derby experience with six of the team’s seven Bengal-based players having experienced the high-adrenaline emotions.

“We have grown up watching these matches so an extra hormone works for us (Bangalis),” Kotal said.

The defender from Uttarpara played for Mohun Bagan for five seasons but never became a captain.

At ATKMB, however, he was made captain for its debut match of ISL as a merged entity.

The Robbie Fowler-coached SC East Bengal might spring some surprises, but Kotal is confident of countering its opponent.

“We know about their Indian footballers. And in today’s world of technology it’s not difficult to gather details about the foreigners. We are also getting feedbacks from India and abroad. It’s really encouraging.”

ATKMB goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya is among the five names Habas has announced as captain.

To him, the importance of the derby is different.

“In the green and maroon time I got only one chance to play derby. But the match was ruined due to trouble at the Salt Lake Stadium. Then I went to Goa. I never got a chance to play a big match.”

“So this derby must be won. It’s an emotional match. I will not deny that an extra urge to win this match comes naturally.”

Bhattacharya was all praise for his team’s defence.

“Our defence is the best of the competition. I didn’t get the ball in the Kerala match. That’s more to worry about. Because when a ball hits the goal, it is terrible. [I] Always be careful. It’s a challenge to keep the focus on ninety minutes,” he said.

Left-back Shubhasish Bose has played three derbies in one year at Mohun Bagan and has not lost in any of them.