Coppell hopes to continue ATK’s surge

After a rocky start to the season, ATK’s Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 campaign looks to be up and running after a series of impressive results of late. The two-time champions will, however, face a tough challenge on Saturday when they take on an in-form NorthEast United FC side at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. A win for the Kolkata side will see them break into the top four.

A day before the all-important tie, ATK head coach Steve Coppell was present at the pre-match press conference to face questions from the media. During his time in India, Coppell's teams have always started the season slowly, before picking up the pace in the later stages of the campaign. The trend has also culminated this season with ATK. Asked if there was any secret behind his ability to engineer late surges, the Englishman said, "I hope it continues. I don’t think there is a secret. Getting to know a squad sometimes takes a little bit longer than you think. Getting to know the key components of the team and finding the right combination to play together, the variety you can use.”

“I think it’s the gradual knowledge of the squad as the season progresses. It's just trying to work hard on a daily basis and bringing the best out of the players you have. You have to know the players who can respond and the ones who are not quite up to it on a game by game basis," he added.

In the reverse fixture earlier this season, the Highlanders triumphed over ATK by just a single goal in Kolkata. Coppell argued that it was an unlucky loss for his team and stated that both teams have come a long way since then. "It was such a false game because we lost a player after 30 mins because of a sending off and that changed the whole complexion of the game. We were hanging on and hoping for breaks because we were so set in our defensive pattern. It was also difficult for NorthEast to play their football. It was a set-piece in the last minute that was our undoing. So, that was a false game. I think both sides have improved. NorthEast have certainly grown in confidence. They’ve been winning games very solidly. Credit to the coach and the players are also disciplined. It will be a real tough game," he said.

The veteran coach, who has been a part of the Hero ISL for three years, was also quizzed about the progress he has witnessed in Indian footballers during his time in the country. "The level of the Indian players has improved because of five years of regular, top quality training and coaching. It has to be a healthy environment to improve. Playing with some top quality foreign players from around the world, seeing their mentality, seeing how they approach games. I think that there has been an improvement for so many of the Indian players now. They are very disciplined with diets, with training, with their approach to the game," he answered.

Read the match preview here

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