Indian Super League giant, ATK Mohun Bagan is all set to take on NorthEast United FC in its next game of the ongoing season, at the Fatorda Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday. ATKMB is currently placed second on the table, while NEU is ranked fifth.

ATKMB is coming off a winning performance over Chennaiyin FC, while NEU, too, tamed Jamshedpur FC in its last tie. Meanwhile, ATKMB midfielder, Javi Hernandez, feels that the lack of enough practice session and crunch schedule affects every side’s tournament performance.

“The situation and the environment in the ‘New Normal’ are completely different. No team got a chance to practice right away. There is very little time between matches. As a result, the chances of recovery are less. Problems do arise when we have to play match just after four days. But, this time, we have mastered the situation. We are ready for the Northeast match,” he told ATKMB.

“We don’t want to go on the field on Tuesday with the thought that we will reach to the playoff. Our goal is to get just three points in the next match, but our ultimate goal is to finish the league being at the top. That’s the thing we should do, keeping our best form till the end,” he continued.

“No team can promise to win in the second round only because they won the first round. I too can’t. The defence of the Northeast is very strong. They have lost only three matches. We are going to play another difficult match. Winning will not be easy. But, we have to win this match, so that we can get closer to the top of the league,” he added.

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Meanwhile, club goalkeeper, Arindam Bhattacharya feels that the side needs to start from the scratch, despite having beaten NEU earlier this season. “We will not enter the field thinking that we will win easily, as we defeated Northeast United in the first round. The second-round match in any league is always tough. Because all the teams enter the field, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. Of course, we are not worried about that. We are not thinking about anything other than winning. I have returned to the dressing room keeping the aim intact in eight of the 12 matches so far. I want to maintain that continuity in the Northeast match as well,” he said.

“We are not thinking about getting to the playoff. We are all thinking of rising to the top of the league. There are still eight matches left. I don’t see any reason not to climb to the top. We still have a second-round game left with Mumbai. As a result, there is a chance to defeat them. We can finish the league at the top if we win all the matches and Mumbai loses some points,” he added.

Club defender, Pritam Kotal says that the side is not concerned about the playoffs right now, but would look to win against NEU to solidify its chances. “We have practically gone to the playoff. I am not thinking about getting into the last four anymore. Our goal is to finish the competition being at the top of the league and get a clearance to play in the AFC Champions League next time. That requires winning of all the matches.  We have started that preparation. Matches in the second round of the league are always tough. The Northeast coach has been changed. A new foreign striker has arrived. As a result, winning Tuesday’s match will not be easy. But, we are the champion team. We must be ready to overcome all obstacles,” he reckoned.

Speaking on the injuries the side has suffered, Kotal evaluated, “There must be ups and downs in the long league. Footballers also have problems with injuries. It happens to all teams. There is no point in thinking about that. This time our team is stronger than last year. The strength of the reserve bench has also increased. Even those who are playing as reserved footballers are also getting success. Everyone in our team is essential.”