ATK coach Antonio Lopez Habas sees Bengaluru FC as favourites as defending champions ahead of the first leg of their Indian Super League (ISL) play-off clash against the Blues on Sunday.
Asked if fourth-placed Chennaiyin FC would have made for an easier opponent in the play-offs, the Spaniard said, "I cannot choose my opponent. Now against Bengaluru, we have to be at our hundred per cent. Bengaluru are the last (defending) champions and a solid team."
"I think it will be an absolutely competitive match because two organised teams will be playing (against each other). Bengaluru is a very good team, balanced and very competitive. They are one of the favourites. I don't know what will happen after the semi-finals but until now Bengaluru are the champions and we have to respect them," he added.
ATK had a decent start to their campaign and were on track to win the league stages and clinch a spot in the AFC Champions League. But they faltered in the final few matches to hand the spot to FC Goa.
Habas, while acknowledging the fact, felt that the concept of play-offs is abstract and he would have loved to win the ISL by winning the league stages.
"We won the first title in the ISL (2014). In my personal opinion, I prefer winning the league with more points (in the regular season). For me, the play-offs is abstract.
"We had a very balanced league. We were trying for the first position but Goa lost only in one match in the latter stages of the league (against ATK towards the business end of the regular season) and we fell against Chennaiyin (and drew against Bengaluru). Now we have to concentrate in the play-offs," stated the 62-year-old.
In his previous stint at ATK in the first two editions of the ISL, when the club was known as Atletico de Kolkata, Habas took his side to the play-offs on both occasions.
"I had two experiences (in the play-offs). First, the first leg against Goa was in Kolkata and then in Goa - we won. Second, won at home against Chennaiyin and lost away - we lost. These [play-off] matches are all special. All small details are very important towards the final score and obviously the referee is very important," Habas signed out.