Panaji: Kibu Vicuna may have coached Mohun Bagan to the I-League title last season but ISL is a different tournament altogether. This is according to ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) head coach Antonio Lopez Habas. He has warned his Kerala Blasters counterpart Thursday to find the going tough from the very first match of the ISL. The two teams will lock horns Friday in the inaugural game of ISL-VII behind closed doors in Bambolim.
Vicuna’s first challenge will be against his former team in a new avatar. Earlier this year the Mariners’ merged with three-time defending ISL champions ATK.
“Kibu Vicuna did good work in Mohun Bagan, but this year it is a different competition and different season. I have the utmost respect for him but Friday we will try to get three points as we work every day for that,” Habas said. Incidentally the Spaniard is the most successful ISL coach.
While most of the franchisees played more than one friendly games in the lead-up, the ISL-winning coach cancelled their scheduled pre-season match against FC Goa. “We didn’t consider it necessary to play friendlies in pre-season because this is a different and special pre-season,” Habas said.
“I think it is more difficult to play against your own teammates than other opponents. The friendly match this season did not have the proper conditions to play. There would have been no referees and we had to play on the training pitch. Therefore it was better to play among us,” the former Las Palmas coach added.
Habas has retained the core of his ATK squad, while making significant additions in the already strong defensive line-up. ATKMohun Bagan , have made high-profile acquisitions of Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri. From the I-League-winning Mohun Bagan squad, they have retained Sheikh Sahil and Avilas Pal.
But Habas said they want to stay grounded and strive for three points in every match. “I think we can call ourselves favourites in March-April. Right now we have to keep our heads down and work hard in every match to get the three points,” he said.
In an unusual move, Habas had named five captains this season in his 27-member squad. “We have a very good squad. In this situation, it is very important to have a good team. We need rotation in this season more than any other season,” pointed out Habas.
“Roy (Krishna) and (David) Williams are as important as any other player in the team. I am very happy with the new additions. They all want to win. They have a good attitude,” added the coach.
ATK Mohun Bagan will also play in the AFC Cup this season and Habas said his priority is to do well internationally as well. “I have the same ambition and that is to build a competitive team and get success, first in ISL and then in any other international competitions,” he said.