Talking Point: Can Rahul KP’s return to the team spark a win for Kerala Blasters against ATK Mohun Bagan?

ATK Mohun Bagan will want to return to winning ways in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 after a loss in their last outing. The Mariners will be facing Kerala Blasters FC at the Fatorda Stadium on Sunday and will need to win to keep pace with table-toppers Mumbai City FC. Kerala, on the other hand, will go into the contest with a five-match unbeaten run and will hope to rise in the standings with a win over Antonio Lopez Habas’ men. Here we have a look at some of the talking points ahead of the match between the teams.

ATK Mohun Bagan’s defence needs to get back to its best

The Mariners lost their last outing 2-1 against NorthEast United FC after conceding twice from open play for the first time in Hero ISL 2020-21. They’ve won one, drawn one and lost two of their last four matches and their recent dip in form can be attributed to the shortcomings in their normally impregnable defence. The Kolkata giants conceded four goals in their last four matches in stark contrast to the three goals they let in during their first nine games. The last four games, in fact, has seen them keep just one clean sheet and concede three goals from open play. The Mariners had conceded no goals from open play in their first nine games and need to get back to what they were doing defensively at the start of the campaign.

Rahul KP’s return will be a welcome boost for Kerala

After missing out on the goalless draw against Jamshedpur FC due to suspension, Rahul KP’s return to the team will be welcomed by his teammates and head coach Kibu Vicuna alike. He scored for the Blasters in each of his last two matches prior to his suspension and has been Kerala’s most potent attacking weapon among their domestic players. His three goals put him third on the list for Indian scorers in Hero ISL 2020-21 after Sunil Chhetri and Halicharan Narzary. Among Kerala players, only Jordan Murray (6) has scored more times than Rahul, whose shot accuracy of 50% is the best by a Blasters player this season.

Can Marcelo Pereira’s addition improve ATK Mohun Bagan’s attack?

ATK Mohun Bagan have scored just 13 times in Hero ISL 2020-21 and only SC East Bengal and Chennaiyin FC have netted fewer goals than them this season. A major reason behind their lack of goals has been their over reliance on Roy Krishna, who has netted seven of their 13 goals so far. Apart from Krishna, only David Williams, Edu Garcia and Manvir Singh have found the back for them, making Marcelo Pereira’s addition to their squad on loan a welcome acquisition. Even though Marcelo has struggled for gametime with Odisha FC this campaign, there’s no doubting his Hero ISL pedigree. The Brazilian has scored 31 goals and provided 18 assists in the Hero ISL in the past.

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