ATK aim to overturn Bengaluru’s first leg advantage to earn final ticket
ATK FC take on Bengaluru FC in the second leg of their Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 semi-final clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday. The Kolkata-based club lost the first leg 1-0 in Bengaluru and will be looking to make the most of their home advantage to overturn the deficit and make it to the final. Bengaluru, on the other hand, will be aiming to see off ATK's challenge to make their third consecutive final appearance in the competition.
The home side made their first semi-final appearance since 2016 when they faced Bengaluru last week in the reverse fixture but succumbed to a narrow 1-0 loss against the defending champions. The Antonio Lopez Habas-coached outfit will be hoping to overcome the deficit, but face a tough task considering Bengaluru have never lost any of their two second leg semis fixtures. However, delving deeper into the stat, it’s to be noted that in both previous occasions Bengaluru were at home for the second leg of their semi-final fixtures. When it comes to away matches in the semis, the Blues have lost one and drawn the other. Furthermore, ATK fans can take heart from the fact that their team has never lost at home in the Hero ISL knockout stages, winning two and drawing once.
ATK will look to get on the front foot and grab an early goal to set the tempo of the contest. Habas’ men boast a solid home record this season, having won six, drawn one and lost twice in Kolkata throughout the league phase. They have also scored 18 times in these nine home games with star striker Roy Krishna contributing eight of these. The Fijian, however, was unusually quiet in the first leg against the Blues and will be eager to redeem himself on Sunday. Besides Krishna, the likes of Edu Garcia and David Williams can also prove to be potent goal threats.
On the defensive front, ATK will need to be extra careful since conceding an away goal will severely dent their chances. Overall, the ATK defence has raked up solid numbers this season but have struggled recently after the departure of centre back Agustin Iniguez. The Spaniard’s leadership at the back and defensive co-ordination have been a big miss and the club is yet to keep a clean sheet since Agus left at the beginning of February. With their passage to the final heavily depending on their defensive solidity on the night, fans will hope the likes of John Johnson, Pritam Kotal and Sumit Rathi can step up in a big way on Sunday.
The defending champions were tight at the back at the Kanteerava, allowing ATK only one shot on target throughout the match and that too from outside the box. The narrative was in line with the Blues’ solid defensive displays over the course of the season, which has seen them keep a record 11 clean sheets so far. With a very narrow lead to protect, Bengaluru’s in-form defence will be their biggest asset on Sunday. However, changes are expected in front of goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu with full back Nishu Kumar suspended after his sending off in the first leg. Centre back Albert Serran is also doubtful for the tie after picking up a knock in the first leg last week.
Considering the scenario, Cuadrat may once again turn to Ashique Kuruniyan as his makeshift left back, having played the winger in that role earlier in the season. Harmanjot Khabra and Rahul Bheke might also find themselves operating in different positions compared to the first leg. Playing three in the back is yet another option Cuadrat may be tempted to exploit given the circumstances. With the defence set to be slightly depleted, the onus will be on the midfield trio of Suresh Wangjam, Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado to provide some extra cover for their backline.
Up front, the team will be counting on top scorer Sunil Chhetri, who put in quite a shift despite not being 100% fit in the first leg. Deshorn Brown and Kevaughn Frater has also impressed in the last few matches and can play an important role in the match.
ATK FC: Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), Pritam Kotal, John Johnson, Sumit Rathi, Prabir Das, Michael Soosairaj, Javier Hernandez, Jayesh Rane, Michael Regin, Edu Garcia, David Williams, Roy Krishna
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Juanan, Rahul Bheke, Ashique Kuruniyan, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado, Suresh Wangjam, Sunil Chhetri, Deshorn Brown, Kevaughn Frater
Did you know?
- Bengaluru FC have scored 8 goals from corner kicks this season. (highest in league)
- ATK FC have scored 11 goals from through balls this season. (highest in league)
- The last time the two sides faced off at the same venue, ATK won 1-0 and a repeat of the result on Sunday will take the match to extra time.
Live Broadcast Schedule:
Hero ISL 2019-20 Semi-final 2 Leg 2: ATK FC vs Bengaluru FC
Date: March 8 (Sunday)
Time: 7:30 PM onwards
Channels: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Hotstar and Jio TV
Can Roy Krishna and Co find a way past the formidable Bengaluru defence?
Leave your predictions for the match in the comments below.