Prolific ATK forward Kalu Uche was on Friday ruled out for at least six weeks with a grade three qaudricep tear, leaving a “big hole” in the squad, coach Steve Coppell said.
The coach said the Nigerian forward has gone back to Barcelona to receive medical treatment and the ATK think tank has sought for a replacement. Kalu is unlikely to be available for six matches, PTI reported.
“He had an extensive tear in his quadriceps muscles. It is grade three which is quite bad. We expect Kalu to be fit around Christmas so we are really looking for a player to fill in for what could be five games after this game,” Coppell said on the eve of their match against FC Pune City.
“We got league approval only last night so we could not get anyone in for this match. He obviously leaves a big hole in our squad. We have requested the ISL whether we can replace him in the short time.
“They have said yes we can but that creates problems in itself because trying to find someone for a short period of time is very difficult. We have sent feelers out for replacements.”
The 36-year-old, who has scored one goal from five matches for ATK, sustained the injury after being brought down by Albert Serran in the 39th minute during their 1-2 loss to Bengaluru FC on October 31.
The two-time former champions have three matches, all at home, and with two wins and one draw they lie seventh in the 10-team standings.
ATK got off to a rousing start against Bengaluru FC with youngster Komal Thatal giving them an early 14th minute lead with his maiden goal but Bengaluru FC bounced back to win 2-1.
“I feel we could have got something from that game. It is not major surgery that is required. As some of the teams are pulling away at the top, you realise that unless you are picking up regular points, you are going to be left behind. So we need to pick up points,” he said.
Out of the eight goals conceded by ATK this season, five have come via set-pieces – the most by any team this season. In their previous match against Bengaluru FC, both their goals were conceded via freekicks. “It’s a pain for us to be absolutely honest because we work very hard to stop set pieces. You are right that we have conceded too many goals from set pieces.
“First and foremost I would say, don’t conceded a set piece and commit a foul. If you do concede one, you have to be alive to situations and defenders have to accept more responsibility.”
Bottom-ranked Pune are yet to win from six matches but the Englishman said they are not underestimating the last-year’s semifinalists. “If we are to win the game, we have to earn victory. No one is going to give us the win and make it easy for us. We have to earn it for ourselves,” he concluded.