ATK Mohun Bagan find themselves just a point above third-placed Bengaluru FC ahead of their Indian Super League (ISL) clash on Monday.
The Mariners have notched 13 points from six matches so far and head coach Antonio Habas wants to keep going with the chasing teams quite close behind on the points table. He expects a strong challenge from a Bengaluru side who are unbeaten in the league so far.
"I think it's impossible to win every match. In this season, the teams are more balanced and it's very difficult for all teams to keep on winning three points. Now, the reality is that the rest of the teams are near with not much difference (in points).
"Bengaluru is a strong team. They have experienced and competitive players. For us, three points (in this match) are the same as in other matches but I know that Bengaluru vs ATK Mohun Bagan is an important match. We respect the opponent and 90 minutes will decide the match."
ATK Mohun Bagan have scored all their goals in the second-half of games so far, including their latest win over FC Goa where a late Roy Krishna penalty settled the result. The Spanish coach dismissed suggestions that ATK Mohun Bagan soak up pressure and try to hit on the counter.
"It's impossible for us to score goals only in the second half. Normally, it depends on the situation deemed necessary to score goals. In the last match (against FC Goa), [David] Williams had a fantastic situation (opportunity) to score (in the first half). You have 90 minutes and the idea is to score goals when you can."
He added, "The idea in football is to get three points. I cannot play thinking about the possibility of drawing or losing. Obviously, sometimes it's better to draw than lose but the first idea is always to win."
Habas feels that the presence of players like Sunil Chhetri and Cleiton Silva in attack means that Bengaluru cannot be taken lightly. He went on to state that Chhetri has been the best Indian player in the last 15 years.
"I don't want to talk about an individual player of the opponent. I know that he (Silva) is a good player and I know that he had a good time (track record) in Thailand. No special tactics against Chhetri. Our idea is to mark the entire team. For me, Chhetri is the best Indian player in India for the last 15 years. His statistics are fantastic but I have to back my players to come on top.
"For example, Manvir (Singh) can be the best player in India. Normally, these things are for coaches to communicate with their players in person," he stated.
David Williams scored seven goals and assisted five last season. However, the Australian has struggled to hit the ground running this season. Coach Habas has thrown his weight behind the former Wellington Phoenix attacker and believes that it’s a matter of time before Williams is amongst the goals.
“Williams had some problems in the first (few) matches because of injuries. Now I'm happy with his recovery and I have a lot of confidence in him."
Habas’ teams are known to be miserly in defence and they have only given away three goals in six matches. The former Bolivia national team coach spoke of denying Bengaluru FC attackers space and time to maneuver.
"The idea is marking zonally and closing down the spaces. In football, you need space for crosses and to create moves. The idea is [to make sure] that the opponent doesn't find any space to attack."