The Spanish tactician explained why he did not consider it important to play friendly matches against other ISL clubs in pre-season…
On the eve of the match ATK Mohun Bagan’s season opener against Kerala Blasters coach Antonio Habas took a dig at his opposite number Kibu Vicuna, reminding him that although the latter has won the I-League with Mohun Bagan, the Indian Super League (ISL) is a different ball game altogether.
Vicuna guided Mohun Bagan to their fifth domestic league title last season but since the club merged with ATK to form ATK Mohun Bagan, there was no room for the manager in the new set up and he jumped ship to Kerala Blasters.
“Kibu Vicuna did good work in Mohun Bagan. But this year it is a different competition and different season. I have the utmost respect for him but on Friday we will try to get three points as we work every day for that,” stated the two-time ISL winner.
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The Mariners face Kerala Blasters and their arch-rivals East Bengal in their first two matches of the season. But Habas is not concerned that his boys have to lock horns against two formidable opponents at the start.
“It is a competition and we have to play all the teams at some point in time. For me, there is no difference. It is the same.”
Every ISL club barring ATK Mohun Bagan have played at least one pre-season friendly game this year. In fact, Blasters have played two matches as part of their preparations. However, Habas has his own reasons for not playing any preparatory game against an ISL team.
“We didn’t consider it necessary to play friendlies in pre-season because this is a different and special pre-season. I think it is more difficult to play against your own teammates than other opponents. The friendly match this season did not have the proper conditions to play. There would have no referees and we had to play on the training pitch. Therefore it was better to play amongst us,” said the Spanish coach.
The former Las Palmas coach is satisfied with the squad he has at his disposal and suggested that his sole target this year will be to win the league and get success in the AFC Cup.
“We have a very good squad. In this situation, it is very important to have a good squad. We need rotation in this season more than any other season. Roy (Krishna) and (David) Williams are as important as any other player in the team. I am very happy with the new additions. They all want to win. They have a good attitude.
“I have the same ambition i.e. to build a competitive team and get success, first in ISL and then in any other international competition.”
As far as team selection is concerned Habas played his cards close to his chest and did not give away whether star acquisition Sandesh Jhingan will take the field against his former team Kerala Blasters in the season opener.
“Sandesh (Jhingan) has the same chance to feature in the eleven as other players. He has not played for a long time and other players also haven’t played for around six-seven months. The chances are equal.”
He also refused to tag themselves as favourites going into the new season and suggested that the focus of the team is to take small steps.
“I think we can call ourselves favourites in March-April. Right now we have to keep our heads down and work hard in every match to get the three points,” said the Spaniard.