Having lost almost half of the key squad members at the beginning of the season, Abahani have been going through difficult times in the competition, suffering defeats in their last two matches. Bengaluru are currently at the top of the Group E table while the Sky Blues are mired at the bottom. Abahani head coach Drago Mamic gave an interview to Dhaka Tribune
, before their final practice session in Dhaka prior to their departure, at the club premises on Saturday afternoon.
Here are the excerpts:
What are your expectations regarding the match against Bengaluru?
We will be playing against the defending champion of India and also the finalist of the last AFC Cup. We know everything about this club. But we must take care about our performance, to be better than last time. We played very, very good against Mohun Bagan FC in the first half but we must start thinking about (prolonging) this performance; to be very good more than only one half. We are now in better fitness condition than before and I already told that we are fighting.
Bengaluru have exhibited strong performances in the AFC Cup. They defeated Bagan in the group stage. Do you think the next game will be tougher than the previous one?
After winning against Bagan, they were outplayed by the same opponent within a weak. We can’t say which team is better. The only question is who is concentrating more in which competition. They also won the game against Maziya (Sports and Recreation Club) with a winner in the 94th minute. They are at the top of the table. We are playing very good. This conception and system of playing (are) not problems. We must just (continue) on that, to extend the time of good playing, not playing only 45 minutes. I hope now we can play (well) much longer than the last game.
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Abahani players during training DHAKA TRIBUNE
You have experience of coaching in the I-League, how competitive are you expecting this game to be?
I have experience in all Asia. I know very good that in this game if you have very good squad and foreign players, then you have big chance. If you take off all the foreign players from Bagan, they can not play so quality game like they did with them. Same goes for Bengaluru. We are handicapped. I don’t know what happened here for minimum presence of the foreign players. This is killing the quality of the league. This is also the reason why this is happening with us in the AFC Cup.
Mulling any change in formation or strategy?
New formation depends on the quality of the players. That’s why we cannot play 4-3-3 against the team who have more quality. And we also have to play away. I think everybody who is rational thinking must know at the moment Bengaluru (are) better team than us. We must play something which can ensure the defence.
What do you think are the reasons behind Abahani’s two defeats in the AFC Cup?
Many reasons I have already spoke of, about calender of competition, about everything. I don’t want to repeat it. Now we have two games behind us. Boys are improving. We are just in the selective time. This team existed for only one month. We changed about seven-eight players from last season, including foreign players. That’s why it is a new team and we must think about it. I’m sure the team will be improving but at the moment we can’t expect some surprising results in Bengaluru. We cannot go there like favourite and promise somebody that we are going there for win because it will be ridiculous in my opinion.