Mohun Bagan Super Giant will turn their attention away from domestic competition and towards international competition after their recent loss to their bitter rivals East Bengal.
After suffering a recent loss to their bitter rivals East Bengal, Mohun Bagan Super Giant will shift their attention from domestic to international competition when they take on an energetic Machhindra FC of Nepal in the AFC Cup on Wednesday in Kolkata. There will be no room for error for the Juan Ferrando-coached team in the preliminary round two matchup against an in-form opponent as they seek to avoid suffering their first derby loss in nearly five years. In the Durand Cup three days ago, the defending champions of the Indian Super League suffered a 0-1 defeat to longtime rivals East Bengal.
The Mariners, who have advanced to the Inter-Zone semifinals the last two seasons, cannot afford to lose because it is a knockout round.
If they win, they will be guaranteed a spot in the South Zone Playoff, where they will take on the winner of Wednesday’s contest between Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited and the Maldives’ Club Eagles.
Should they win against the Nepalese outfit, Mohun Bagan will also get to play at home in the next round, in their bid to make the continental showpiece’s main round.
However, the Mariners did not have a perfect build-up to the AFC Cup after seeing their eight-match winning streak against East Bengal coming to an end last Saturday.
As if that weren’t enough, Mohun Bagan is also taking part in the local league (Calcutta Football League Premier Division), albeit with their young team, with a game scheduled for Tuesday. This means the team is simultaneously participating in three different leagues.
Coach Ferrando responded, “It’s not in our control. I’m not happy with the build-up to the AFC Cup. A strong lineup will be sought after. In contrast to their bitter rival East Bengal, who won the 2003 ASEAN Cup Championship, Mohun Bagan have long suffered from never having taken home the continental trophy.
The Sanjiv Goenka-owned team has been aggressive in the transfer market, putting together a star-studded group, despite losing consecutive semifinal games in the previous two seasons.
The most successful ISL coach, Antonio Lopez Habas, has also been reinstated by Mohun Bagan as the team’s technical director.
When asked about the strain of expectations during the pre-game media conference, Ferrando responded, “He (Sanjiv Goenka) wants to win every trophy, that’s normal being a team owner.”
He was eager to point out that a young team with prominent players like Armando Sadiku and Jason Cummings, who faced off against Lionel Messi in the 2022 World Cup, would need time to adjust.
With so many famous foreign players, Mohun Bagan may have an advantage over other teams because the Asian Football Federation permits six foreigners (five players of any nationality plus one from an AFC member organisation) to be in the starting lineup.
Ferrando claimed that regardless of whether a player is a domestic or foreign player, he will present the best lineup depending on their current form.
The same is true for defenders Anwar Ali and Brendal Hamill, according to the Spaniard, “if Kiyan Nassiri looks in better shape than Dimitri Petratos he will play.”
According to their recent form, the Kathmandu team is in the lead after defeating Paro FC in the previous round to earn their first-ever victory in the competition.
The Kishore Kumar-coached team will be counting on Afeez Olawale Oladipo and Andres Nia Tchounkeu in midfield, while forward Bimal Gharti Magar will be eager to make an impression against his previous team.
“Even though Mohun Bagan may be coming off a defeat, we cannot afford to relax. They have a strong offensive and use a 4-3-2-1 shape. We must strengthen our defence and generate opportunities, the coach said.”Even though Mohun Bagan may be coming off a defeat, we cannot afford to relax. They have a strong offensive and use a 4-3-2-1 shape. We must fortify our defence and generate opportunities, the coach added.