Heavyweights ATK Mohun Bagan would be eyeing to plug holes in its defence to avoid the ignominy of a hat-trick of defeats when they take on an unbeaten Chennaiyin FC in an Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 match in Fatorda on Saturday. (More Football News)
After starting off in style with thumping wins over Kerala Blasters and arch-rivals East Bengal, the Mariners have slumped to back-to-back losses against nemesis Mumbai City FC and Jamshedpur FC to slip out of top-five.
Against quality opposition in MCFC and JFC, the Green and Maroon brigade’s defence has been terribly out of shape, leaking seven goals in two matches. Their two national defenders Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose have failed to live up to the expectations in the absence of injured Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan, who has left for Croatian club Sibenik.
Habas would hope Tiri, the star Spanish central defender, plays the full 90 minutes, even as it seems a far-fetched reality as he is yet to gain full fitness. Chennaiyin FC have been the most resolute in their defence this season, letting in the least number of goals – two – from three matches.
In such a scenario, Habas would look to rearrange his formation and may ring in a few changes with Michael Soosairaj a possibility in the left wing. While trying to bolster the defence, ATK Mohun Bagan has suffered in its attacking play, something that was seen in its 1-2 loss to the Red Miners.
In such a scenario, striking the right balance would be the topmost priority for the Spanish gaffer. “We have been the best team in the first two matches and in two matches we have become the worst team,” Habas said on the eve of their match.
“Football needs a balanced view, we would look to find a perfect balance between attack and defence,” Habas added. Lack of coordination between the likes of Roy Krishna, Hugo Boumous and their midfield has been a big letdown for the Mariners.
But Habas refused to divulge his strategy when asked whether he is mulling to bring in Aussie centre forward David Williams. “We are playing back-to-back matches and we need all our players to be ready,” he said. ATK Mohun Bagan showed some fighting spirit in the final minutes against Jamshedpur FC that saw Kotal reducing the margin in the 88th minute.
“We have to start the next match with that similar rhythm that we showed in the final five minutes (against Jamshedpur FC). Hopefully, we can do that in the next match. It's not all over after losing two matches,” their ace Fijian marksman Roy Krishna said.
“This time we have to go back to the drawing board. The coach must work out some other strategy, we have to work harder in training to make that happen,” the Fijian said, making his intentions clear.
“We still have a long way to go. We have good enough players in our team. We have to prove that. I've full confidence in the boys, hopefully they will come out with full strength (against Chennaiyin).”
The Bozidar Bandovic-coached Marina Machans, on the other hand, are yet to lose from three matches this season, winning two and drawing one. Even as they have been strong defensively, the problem has been to find the finishing touches and that was evident in their goalless draw against a struggling East Bengal in their last outing.
They had four shots on target but none of them could be converted as Habas would look to exploit the frailties of their wayward attack in his team's bid to bounce back.