ATK are set to lock horns with Kerala Blasters in what should be an electric Indian Super League clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday.
ATK, two-time champions, and Kerala Blasters, two-time runners-up, have some history between them in the ISL. On both occasions that ATK won the title, it was the side from Kochi that they vanquished in the final.
However, Kerala are unbeaten in the last five matches against ATK and the home team will want to turn the tables this time, especially given that Kerala defeated them 2-1 in the reverse fixture in Kochi in the opening game of the season.
“In the opening game, they didn’t know anything about us and we didn’t know anything about them. This game I know exactly where their weaknesses are and how are they scoring. I have a good game plan. I have never lost against ATK. So, I hope to get another win,” said Kerala Blasters coach Eelco Schattorie.
ATK have been in brilliant form this season, with the in-form duo of Roy Krishna and David Williams powering their attack that has scored 21 goals in 11 matches – second only to FC Goa.
Krishna and Williams alone have contributed 13 goals. However, Williams’ participation in this game is doubtful, after he picked up an injury.
“We don’t know whether Williams will play. We will decide before the match. But my idea of football is not dependent on individuals,” said ATK coach Antonio Habas.
Habas received telling contributions from their Indian players, with Pronay Halder and Michael Soosairaj scoring in their win over Mumbai City FC in the last match. The likes of Prabir Das and Sumit Rathi have also impressed.
“I understand perfectly the Indian players. We have good Indian players. For us it is easy. Pritam (Kotal), Arindam (Bhattacharya), Prabir are all good players. Sumit is a top player too. He has good ideas and is a good defender. (Give him a) couple of years more, he could be in the national team,” said Habas.
It is no surprise that they sit third on the table with 21 points and will go level with FC Goa at the top with a win.
Kerala Blasters also have an in-form strike partnership in Raphael Messi Bouli and Bartholomew Ogbeche which has contributed 11 goals so far. But their defence has been plagued by injuries and inconsistencies that has seen them pick just two wins in 11 matches.
The second of those wins came in the last match, a resounding 5-1 win in which both Messi and Ogbeche found the net.
“We are the only team with seven foreigners and out of them, six have been injured (at some point in time). We have struggled with our defence. In the midfield also we have had to make constant changes. I have not been able to field the same XI in two successive games,” said Schattorie.
Now placed eighth on the table, they badly need a win to take them within two points of fourth-placed Mumbai City.
Kerala will hope to repeat their feat from last season and boost their top-four hopes while ATK will look to continue their impressive form while exacting a measure of revenge.