ATK Mohun Bagan play their second home game in this season’s Indian Super League (ISL) tomorrow night against Odisha FC at the Fatorda stadium. Antonio Habas’ men will be looking for their third consecutive victory against Stuart Baxter’s Odisha. Their opponents, on the other hand, will look to bag all three points for the first time this season after a loss and a draw in their first two matches. Excerpts from Stuart Baxter’s pre-match press conference-
On if his side’s second half comeback against Jamshedpur FC will give the players the required momentum
A performance like that instils more belief and gives players a lot of energy. On the other hand when you lose, it takes away a bit of that energy. I believe the second half performance in the last game will give us a little more confidence but at the same time we are realistic because we know that this is just the beginning of a long process of development.
On ATK Mohun Bagan being a settled and well-balanced outfit
Yes they are balanced and have a set way of playing. They are a difficult side to play against because they have good players who can hurt you if you push forward and leave spaces behind. And if you don’t do that, they are very solid defensively and are difficult to break down. So that’s the conundrum you face when you play them. But we come into the game in a buoyant mood and feel like we can have a real go at them.
On how long it would take for his side to play their best football
If I had a crystal ball that would have been very easy to answer but I obviously don’t (smiles). However, I’m enjoying the way the team is developing. They are working hard in training every day and we hope we can translate some of those good things on to the pitch more consistently.
On if goalkeeper Arshdeep (Singh) was dropped in the last match due to an injury concern
Yes there was an injury scare for Arshdeep which is why Kamaljit stepped in. I thought he did well. We’re happy that we have that kind of strong competition for a position that is extremely important.
On Indian players like Hendry (Antonay) and Saurabh (Meher) who have come into the side
Well of course you can’t expect young players to walk into an environment that they are not used to and immediately be the finished article. What we hope is that they can keep learning and still give a performance that will strengthen their confidence and at the same time, help the team.
On the key moments in the match against Jamshedpur
Of course in the first half, even after going 2-0 down we were still playing better than we did against Hyderabad. I was relatively pleased with how compact we were and breaking out, trying to play through the lines better. We gave away two silly goals that put us in the backfoot but in the second half the players kept their belief and were able to take it a notch higher. To get to 2-1 with 15 minutes to play, everyone was hunting for that second goal. Then having got the second, I thought we might have got a third if the game went on for five more minutes.
On local lad George D’Souza getting his chance in the first team
He is a player who has potential. This is all still a little too new for him. He needs to add to his armoury in terms of calmness and his positional play. He is working very hard at it and he will certainly feature for us going forward.
On having special plans for the ATK Mohun Bagan attackers
Not really. You respect them because they are good, experienced players. We have to make sure that whilst we’re throwing players forward, if they get into the game quickly through a transition then they can be effective. We are aware of that and will try to make it difficult for them. It will depend on how well the players close the spaces down and keep them quiet.
On if Diego Mauricio might feature from the start after an impressive cameo
If you ask any manager a question like that 24 or 36 hours before a game, he’s not going to give you his starting lineup. All I can say is that Diego did make a massive impact when he came on. We also have Manu (Onwu) who plays well with the other players so in my mind I’ll have to make that decision.