A resurgent Chennayin FC will take on an optimistic ATK in the second semifinal of the Hero Super Cup football tournament in Bhubaneshwar on Wednesday.
Chennaiyin come into Wednesday’s game on the back of an impressive victory against NorthEast United FC, while ATK overcame Delhi Dynamos FC in a thrilling quarterfinal tie which ended 4-3.
ATK head coach Steve Coppell seemed cautiously optimistic ahead of the last four tie.
“I think every game is so different, you can never predict them. After 10-15 minutes of actual play, you get a measure of how the game is going to play out. Certainly, in my mind, Chennaiyin are obviously a very dangerous side and they have ambition to try and win this competition,” he said.
Pushed for his take on Chennaiyin’s purple patch post the Indian Super League 2018-19 season, Coppell said, “Definitely they are stronger. During the ISL season, it was fairly obvious that they did not have that oomph that they had last year.
“But the qualification for the AFC Cup has created a buzz and lifted the camp. It has helped them to get them through to this stage of the Super Cup. It is an exciting time to play Cup football. Cup football is more edgy and more dangerous.”
ATK will miss midfielder Pronay Halder on Wednesday through suspension due to accumulated bookings.
“He (Haldar) has been terrific in the two games we have played so far. Given the unique nature of this competition this year, there could have been a different interpretation of the bookings rule. But having said that, if you commit an action which the referee sees to be a questionable foul, then you have to be punished,” Coppell said.
Chennaiyin’s head coach John Gregory too is positive about his team’s chances.
“The mood in the dressing room is very good. It’s great to be involved on both fronts – in the Hero Super Cup and the AFC Cup. The players are all excited at the prospect of progressing to a final. Generally, there is a good mood. We were obviously disappointed with the ISL season. However, the attitude has been great going into both cup competitions,” he said.
“It isn’t easy on the players, a long season like this. But all of them are focused on the job at hand and aiming to make it into the final. We have momentum at the moment and the spirit within the squad is high.”
The Englishman also showered praise on the ATK team and reiterated that it will be difficult to break the Coppell-coached outfit.
“I’ve said this before. Coppell’s teams are very difficult to break down. They played well against Delhi Dynamos, with our former player Balwant Singh scoring a hat-trick. (Manuel) Lanzarote is always a danger as well. We will try to keep him quiet,” Coppell said.
The winner of the match will take on FC Goa in the final on Saturday.
(With PTI inputs)