Indian Super League champions Atletico de Kolkata became the first team to make it through to the playoffs this season after recording three back-to-back wins at home. They are currently on 23 points with a game in hand in the regular league season.
The performance of the entire team, right from the defence, marshalled by Arnab Mondal, among others, to the midfield, led by Arata Izumi and the ever-present Borja Fernandez, and the attacking line, spearheaded by Iain Hume, has inspired ATK to reach so far this season.
Another man who deserves all the plaudits to make the side reach this stage is Spanish coach Antonio Habas. The 'Best Coach' award winner from the ISL category in the Indian football awards this year has done amazingly well to combine the foreign players and the Indian players to bring the best out of them.
The team chemistry reached new levels under Habas this season, with lesser-known players like Javi Lara and Sameehg Doutie, all coming to the fore to give some stellar displays.
Habas explained that the mentality of the team as a whole grew with every performance and it was the hard work and dedication, coupled with discipline and talent, that did the trick this season, with more games to go.
"Our mentality has grown with every game, and that why we are doing fantastic now. In football, you can lose a game and then go win, win, win so now we are going through such a phase. Football is all about the mental state," Habas was quoted by IANS as saying.
"The magic is all about discipline and talent. One has to go on working hard. Talent and hardwork is the perfect combination. We practiced in Spain with hard precision and now we are getting the rewards. You can chose Iain Hume and (Sameehg) Doutie to start and then somebody is coming of the bench and scoring. So its great," the Spaniard said.
Canadian forward Hume became the first player in the history of the ISL to score two hat-tricks in one season, after his memorable performance in ATK's 4-1 victory against FC Pune City on Friday. The former Kerala Blasters frontman has nine goals so far, and he is in contention for the golden boot.
Chennaiyin FC's Stiven Mendoza currently rules the roost with ten goals.
ATK play Mumbai City FC in their final league game next Friday, and they await their opponents in the two-legged semifinals, starting on 11 December.