We Are Ready for the Kolkata Derby, Says Jose Manuel Diaz

Panaji, November 26: The Kolkata Derby, the fan-favourite clash between the two footballing giants from the city of joy, is finally upon us.

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

The task is cut out for our head coach, Jose Manuel Diaz, and his men, who 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 on 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 our 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,” Diaz said.

It has been two years since SC East Bengal won against their arch-rivals. It remains to be seen whether Arindam Bhattacharya and co. will be able to mar ATK Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Lopez Habaz’s 100%-win record against the Red-and-Gold army, but, as our coach said, “We are ready!”

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