The 2022-23 Indian Super League final sees a clash between two teams who have perfected the art of the counter-attacking football this season.

Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan have relied on a solid defensive set up and a pacy attacking unit to punch their way to the ISL final.

Of the teams that finished in the playoff positions, ATKMB scored the least number of goals while only Hyderabad FC conceded fewer goals than the Mariners. Similarly, only ATKMB have scored fewer goals than Bengaluru FC with the Blues letting in the league’s fourth-most 23 goals this season.

According to stats released by the ISL, both sides are also among the top three teams to score the most number of goals from counter-attacks this season with ATKMB scoring 13 of their 26 goals from fast breaks with 11 of BFC’s 30 goals coming from counters. Only Chennaiyin FC, with 15 goals, have scored more from counter-attacks.

That is not to say that either team cannot create chances through patient build up play. Both teams do have players who have the creativity to break down stubborn defences with their passing and movement.

Here’s a look at three battles which could decide the outcome of the final:

Dimitri Petratos vs Sandesh Jhingan

Petratos has been one of the best players this season with his joint league-high goal contributions (10 goals and 7 assists) propelling ATKMB into the final. The Australian was on target both times these sides met in the league stage with two rockets from distance. His ability to shoot on target from distance as well as from inside the box should hold him in good stead when he comes up against former ATKMB man Sandesh Jhingan.

Jhingan has been the rock at the heart of the Bengaluru defence. Ever since Simon Grayson switched to three at the back, Jhingan has been solid, rarely giving attackers any space in the box. The former ATKMB player also leads the league in clearances this season. The Indian defender effectively kept out the dangerous Jorge Pereyra Diaz out of the tie in Bengaluru’s semi-final win over shield-winners Mumbai City FC.

With the final likely to be decided by a slim margin, the battle between Petratos and Jhingan will be of huge importance.

Asish Rai vs Naorem Roshan Singh

Another intriguing battle at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Goa will pit two young exciting defenders against each other. Former Indian Arrows teammates Naorem Roshan Singh and Asish Rai are perhaps the future of the Indian defence and fans will be in for a treat when the two clash on the wing.

Bengaluru’s switch to a three-man defence has given Roshan the freedom to attack down the left wing more often and the move has paid off handsomely for Grayson. The 24-year-old has three assists to his name with only Chennaiyin FC’s Aakash Sangwan (5) having more among defenders this season. Similarly, only Sangwan (26) has created more chances among defenders than Roshan’s 25 this season.

On the other side is a player who is part of the stingiest defence in the league. Rai has been tremendous on ATKMB’s right and a nuisance for some of the league’s best wingers. No other defender in the league has made more interceptions than Rai’s 53.

Hugo Boumous vs Rohit Kumar and Suresh Wangjam

While the likes of Javi Hernandez, Roy Krishna and Siva Sakthi Narayanan have taken the spotlight for Bengaluru FC, it is the tireless work in the middle of the park by the pair of Rohit Kumar and Suresh Wangjam that has allowed the Blues’ attacking talents to go for glory.

The unassuming pair have been a joy to watch in the Bengaluru midfield and should get some credit for the team’s incredible defensive record this season. The pair boasts 59 interceptions and 35 tackles between them. Adding to that is their clean and simple passing, making them the unheralded heroes of this Bengaluru side.

On Saturday, they will be tasked with keeping the dangerous Hugo Boumous in check. The Moroccan has forged an incredible partnership with Petratos and has been a key component in ATKMB’s counter-attacking system. Though he has only four assists to his name this season, he has created 48 chances only behind Mumbai’s Greg Stewart and Petratos.

Which battles are you looking forward to in the final? Let us know by tagging us @thefield_in on Twitter.