Coppell wary of resurgent Pune but keen to win
With their play-off ambitions hanging in the balance, ATK will step on to the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune for a crucial match-up against FC Pune City on Sunday. The two-time Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) champions are still in knocking distance of the top four but can't afford any missteps.
During the pre-match press conference, ATK head coach Steve Coppell was asked whether his team was more comfortable playing away from home. "I don’t feel we’ve been more comfortable, but the results suggest that we have been. I think at home sometimes, there is an added pressure on teams. It’s a little bit different from Europe and the rest of the word where it’s a distinct advantage because of the crowd, the environment," he responded.
"In India, the stands are so far back that it’s difficult for the crowd to have a real impact. Here the crowd are so far away from the pitch, it’s difficult to get a home advantage. From a playing point of view, I think a lot of teams are comfortable playing away from home because the emphasis is on the home teams to come out and play. I don’t think we’ve been better away from home even if the results have shown so," he added.
Coppell then addressed Pune’s dramatic surge in form of late and said, "I think when we played them earlier in the season, they were going through a short period of instability. Whereas now, they are much more stable. They have a new coach who has given new direction and a different style of play. Inevitably, the players will want to impress the new coach as they did do against Chennaiyin FC."
In ATK's last match against Jamshedpur, Coppell opted to break up the centre-back pairing of John Johnson and Andre Bikey to play an extra foreigner up front. Asked if he would continue with the system, Coppell said, "Andre Bikey and John Johnson have been a formidable partnership in terms of goals we conceded and the number of clean sheets we kept. But at this stage of the season, the emphasis is on three points and maybe not one point. So, you have to weigh whether it's worth taking a gamble to get a more attack-minded player up the pitch."
The 63-year-old also confirmed that he will have a full quota of players to choose from on Sunday. "No, no (we don’t have any injury concerns). We have a full squad for tomorrow. We have no injury problems at all," he revealed.
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