Reunited with his old franchise ATK, Spanish coach Antonio Lopez Habas on Thursday said his primary focus is to build a balanced team going into the upcoming edition of Indian Super League (ISL). Under the Spaniard, then Atletico de Kolkata won the inaugural title in 2014 and made the last-four the following year as he had been their most successful coaches so far.
Former Spanish international Jose Molina took charge during the third season and the Kolkata franchise put up a dominant display winning their second title — a record they jointly hold with Chennaiyin FC in the five-year-old history of the cash-rich league.
Once ties with Atletico Madrid were severed, ATK’s performance had nosedived, finishing ninth and sixth in the last two seasons, which possibly prompted Sanjiv Goenka-owned franchise to opt for Habas in their bid to revive fortunes.
“The magic word in football is (to achieve) balance. The idea is to score goals and not concede any — this is balance. My prinicipal goal is to build a competitive team, both in the attack and defence,” Habas said in second stint as ATK head coach.
“My plan is to enjoy with the team and the city. We have put in a lot of hard work to build a competitive team. I’m very happy to be here again for another season. I’m excited for the season to start.”
The side looks promising this time with the recruit of Fijian captain Roy Krishna, who was the top scorer A-League last season.
They have also added some big Indian names like Anas Edathodika and a promising striker in Jobby Justin along with young goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, who caught everyone’s attention at the U-17 FIFA World Cup hosted by India in 2017.
ATK will kick off the sixth edition on October 20, taking on Kerala Blasters FC in their away match in Kochi as they will play their first home game of the season on October 25 when they host FC Pune City.
“Now we have 15-20 days left for the important first game. We have zero injury — we don’t have a single player injured until this morning, that’s very important. The remaining 15 days is very, very important for us. Now is the moment. The players will have to adapt to the different cities, conditions, climate and everything.”
Habas said they have a good bunch of Indian players who will look to improve themselves with the foreign stars.
“I’m confident they will do well. The Indian players with the ISL are more competitive because of our strong bonding with the foreign players. There is always good communication and good opportunity for Indian players.”
Habas however remained non-committal whether Dheeraj Singh, who played for Kerala Blasters last season, will be their first choice goalkeeper.