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ISL: We are ready for Kolkata derby, says East Bengal coach

ATK Mohun Bagan got off to a flying start in this season’s Indian Super League, beating Kerala Blasters by 4-2. Meanwhile, SC East Bengal played out a stalemate 1-1 against Jamshedpur FC in their first match.

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Vasco: The much-awaited Kolkata Derby, the fan-favourite clash between the two footballing giants from the city of joy, will be held on Friday at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco da Gama, Goa.

ATK Mohun Bagan got off to a flying start in this season’s Indian Super League, beating Kerala Blasters by 4-2. Meanwhile, SC East Bengal played out a stalemate 1-1 against Jamshedpur FC in their first match.

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East Bengal coach Jose Manuel Diaz and his men will have to face one of the most formidable attacking line-ups of the tournament in their second match of the season. The coach, however, is not overly concerned.
“I know it is only our second official match of the season, but we don’t want to come up with any excuses. We know ATKMB is a good team and is helmed by an able coach who has experience in the ISL, but we will try to do our best,” Diaz said while speaking to the media ahead of the much-awaited fixture.

The former Real Madrid B team’s coach did not divulge much about the formation he was going to play in the derby, saying, “We are working on different options and combinations because there are many matches we’ll have to play in a short period of time, so we’re keeping all options open.”

Hugo Boumous and Roy Krishna hit the ground running for ATKMB, with the Frenchman netting a brace against Kerala and the Fiji striker converting a spot-kick.

Diaz, however, is focusing on the opponent’s whole team, rather than just the attackers. “For me, the whole squad of ATKMB is a threat. Yes, Hugo and Krishna are good players who can score goals, but one or two players can’t win you a match. The team has to perform well collectively to win. So we’re making plans to stop the team instead of focusing on individuals.”

On being asked how he plans to mark the duo, Diaz said, “It will depend on the situation of the match and the area where the ball is. If the ball is close to our box, we’ll switch to a man-to-man marking.”

The Spaniard is clear on how his team should play. “Our focus will be on minimizing mistakes, having a strong structure, and capitalizing on the weak points of ATKMB. We must be compact, give good, secure passes, and create opportunities in the attacking half, because it becomes difficult if we’re defending the whole time.”

ATK Mohun Bagan will go into the match as favourites, based on form, but Diaz said that his gaffer is not too worried about the ‘underdog’ tag. “No, it doesn’t bother us. We will play to our strong points. Though ATKMB’s squad has been playing together for many seasons, we are ready.”

It has been two years since East Bengal won against their arch-rivals. It remains to be seen whether Arindam Bhattacharya and co. will be able to mar Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Lopez Habaz’s 100 per cent win record against the Red-and-Gold army.

Mohun Bagan coach Habas has demanded high intensity throughout the 90 minutes from his players ahead of the big Kolkata derby. Mohun Bagan took the three points in their opening fixture against Kerala Blasters. The score-line read 4-2 handsomely in favour of the Mariners even though they had less possession than their opponents.

The club had 44 per cent possession and took 10 shots at goal, out of which five were on target and four of them resulted in goals. The teams are unbeaten in the two matches against East Bengal and will look to continue the trend on Saturday.

Speaking to the media at the official pre-match press conference, Mohun Bagan coach Habas said, “We have a special plan for every match. We don’t play all the matches in the same style with the same players. We have to assess the player and the opponents and then decide accordingly.”

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