East Bengal assistant coach Tony Grant feels motivation will not be a problem for his team ahead of their 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) clash against NorthEast United on Tuesday.
The Red and Golds were recently humiliated 3-1 in the Kolkata derby by ATK Mohun Bagan who completed the double over their arch-rivals.
"Obviously, the derby (defeat) was a tough result to take. We know the importance of a derby. I've been involved in huge derby games myself. A lot of the players took it badly because we really wanted to get a result but that's football. It happens," said the former Everton midfielder.
"We have another two games (against NorthEast United and Odisha) to go. The players love training and learning. So I think motivation won't be a problem. We have a bench squad as well and some of them will be hoping to get more of a chance to play," he added.
Having conceded 25 times, East Bengal have the third-worst defensive record in the ISL but Grant refused to admit that Robbie Fowler's team has had issues at the back.
"I thought we gave ATK Mohun Bagan a presence that day. We conceded the second goal because of poor play by us. But before that [when] we played Hyderabad (1-1 draw), they scored from the last kick of the game. We beat Jamshedpur (2-1). Mumbai (1-0 loss against Mumbai City) could only score one goal [against us] and we couldn't have got something there. So I wouldn't say they were woes.
"You go through different times hoping you don't give teams easy goals. I think it's an element that we have to work on as every element of the game. You keep working on different parts of the game until everyone gets better," the 46-year-old explained.
Grant claimed that East Bengal began building their squad for the next season right from the start of their ongoing campaign.
"To be honest, we've had an eye on next season for most of this season. I think it's been well documented that we came into the league really late. We had a two-week period to prepare players, lots of who have not played in the ISL. So that was a huge jump. So from day one, we have had an eye on next season, trying to look at players who have improved us this year," he continued.
"I think we've got a couple of players who have improved us, especially in [Sarthak] Golui and Saurav (Das). I've listened to a few coaches this year and they're all talking about recruitment for the next season. So every club in the world will always have an eye on next season and the season after," Grant said.
The East Bengal assistant feels that NorthEast United deserve to be in the top four this season while also terming the tie 'a real test' for those who want to secure their place in the East Bengal squad.
"I think they (NorthEast United) have done really great. They started the season really well. Looking at their recruitment, they've recruited well from last season. They got a good blend of youth [and experience] in their team. I think they deserve to be in the top four and it's going to be a big test for our lads because they are well gelled and have a lot to play for.
"That's the best time to see what your players are made of; when it's a real test. It's easy when you're winning games. To play for this club (East Bengal), you have to be able to roll your sleeves up," Grant said.