Habas says Chennaiyin FC is a very competitive team and his team needs to play smartly in the first-leg semi-final in Pune on Saturday. (Getty Images)
Kolkata: Defending champions Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) coach Antonio Lopez Habas on Wednesday said that his team needed to play intelligently against Chennaiyin FC at the Indian Super League (ISL) first-leg semi-final in Pune on Saturday.
“We will have to play intelligently against Chennai. They are a very competitive team so we have to give our best there,” Habas said.
The Spaniard believes playing at a neutral venue would not be much of an advantage as opponents remain same, Chennaiyin. The match was shifted to Pune due to the recent Chennai flood that played havoc with arrangements in the affected city.
“For us playing in Pune or Chennai is the same. The opponent is the same, Chennaiyin FC. We have to play against a good side, it will be a difficult game,” he said.
Asked if the Balewadi stadium would be a problem because of the smaller size of the ground, Habas said: “Maybe, small ground will affect us a bit but then we cannot concentrate on it. Our focus will be on our opponents and how to win the match. It is an opportunity to do well and go into the second leg.”
The former Valencia coach did not choose to speak about Chennaiyin midfielder Elano Blumer who will miss the tie due to card problems.
Atletico head into the encounter at the back of a 2-3 defeat against Mumbai City FC in their last group match but Habas believes the loss has helped them recover their attitude.
“The loss helped us recover our attitude. We are now absolutely focussed on Chennaiyin,” he said.
Chennaiyin have been beaten twice this season by Atletico, however, the coach says he does not believe much in “history or statistics.”
“I have a good feeling about the team. There is team-spirit and everything is settled. We need to play balanced football,” he said.
Habas also lauded the efforts of Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi who has helped his side win four back-to-back games to qualify for knockouts.
“Materazzi has been fantastic with the things he has done with the team,” he concluded.