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Can Habas once again reclaim the ISL title for ATK Mohun Bagan?

The tactician has a strong challenge facing him in the upcoming season of the league.

Can Habas once again reclaim the ISL title for ATK Mohun Bagan?

Antonio Lopez Habas


Prachyaprachetah Sarkar

Updated: 8 Nov 2021 12:14 PM GMT

Antonio Lopez Habas is the most successful head coach in the history of the Indian Super League. He is the only head coach to win the league twice, in 2014 and 2019/20 with Atletico de Kolkata and ATK FC respectively. The Spaniard is popular for having an energetic personality and his tactical genius is acknowledged by all.

He is currently the head coach of ATK Mohun Bagan, his third club in the ISL. During the seventh edition of the ISL, the Mariners finished second in the league table and runners-up in the playoffs. Narrowly missing out on the ISL shield and ISL trophy to Mumbai City FC was a setback for the club. This is even more so disappointing because the Mariners were perhaps the most complete squad in the league. They also led the league table for a major part of the 2020/21 season and yet finished second to the Islanders.

Challenge ahead

The next season will be a telling one for ATKMB and Antonio Lopez Habas. The club and the manager are facing the sternest test yet with several clubs trying to challenge their domination. Mumbai City FC, as defending champions, has made smart recruitment in order to retain the title in the eighth edition. Signing players like Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia), Igor Angulo, Ygor Catatau, etc., will certainly make them harder to beat.

Toppling Mumbai City FC and regaining possession of the crown will be the main objective for Habas next season. It would be wrong to assume that ATKMB are not able to reclaim the ISL title. They have made some very notable recruitment as well. Players like Amrinder Singh, Joni Kauko, Hugo Boumous, and Liston Colaco among others will add to the quality of the squad.

Threats from elsewhere

Another important factor Habas must be wary of is the challenge posed by teams like Bengaluru FC, Hyderabad FC and FC Goa. These teams will be aiming to finish in the playoffs positions or challenge for the title for that matter. In addition to dethroning MCFC, Habas needs to keep his men focused against other teams and not become complacent.

The 64-year-old tactician also needs to work on rekindling the confidence of his defenders. The 6-0 defeat to FC Nasaf exposed the weaknesses and the last run of fixtures last season saw the Mariners leak a lot of goals. Habas has the quality to keep his side defensively solid and continue to record clean sheets. It will be essential for ATKMB to reclaim their throne next season.

Positives to look out for

ATK Mohun Bagan are still heavyweights of the ISL, regardless of the end result last season in the ISL. The Mariners have made statement signings with an intent to reclaim the ISL crown from MCFC. Furthermore, players like Roy Krishna, David Williams and Manvir Singh make them a real threat for any defence. Joni Kauko was very impressive on his debut against FC Nasaf despite the team suffering a huge defeat. The Finland international who played in the 2020 UEFA Euro will make his debut in Indian football in the 2021/22 season.

The defense is already strong and the inclusion of Amrinder Singh will add more quality. He kept 10 clean sheets last term, joint-top with Arindam Bhattacharya. Keeping all these factors in mind and the tactical ingenuity of the gaffer, ATK Mohun Bagan can certainly finish as ISL winners in the upcoming season. The outfit's chances increase even more with a gaffer like Habas leading the team from the front.

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