Stakes high for ATK as they face off against resurgent Pune
With their play-off hopes on the line, ATK will be on the hunt for all three points when they square off against a resurgent FC Pune City at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Sunday.
Pune have the better head-to-head record against ATK, winning five of the nine matches while the Kolkata-based side has come out on top just twice.
After a horrid start to their season, Pune seem to have finally hit their stride of late. The Stallions have won their last three matches on a trot and will look to continue their surge further at ATK's expense on Sunday. With new head coach Phil Brown at the helm, Pune won their first match after the winter break against Chennaiyin FC 2-1 last week. The manner of the victory will be particularly satisfying for Pune fans, who saw the team respond positively even after going a goal down. After falling behind to a CK Vineeth goal, the Stallions hit back almost immediately with two quickfire strikes by talisman Marcelo Pereira. With Iain Hume slowly regaining full fitness, the Marcelo-Hume partnership up front can help Pune trouble any defence. The form of Marcelo will be particularly encouraging for Pune, with the Brazilian having scored four goals in his last three matches.
Currently seventh on the table with 14 points from 13 matches, the Stallions still have an outside chance of making it to the semi-finals and will look to pick up the maximum points from all their remaining matches to test the waters. Pune, however, will be without first-choice centre back Matt Mills for the match, which may dent their defensive prospects a little.
Here’s a look at Pune’s current season in numbers:
On the back of Jamshedpur FC's victory over Mumbai City FC on Friday, Sunday's match is practically a must-win for Steve Coppell's men if they want to stay relevant in the top four race. While a win will bring them just a point off fourth-placed NorthEast United FC, a loss will leave them trailing by four points, leaving them with an uphill task with just three matches left.
Despite boasting a tight-defensive record this season, ATK's biggest worry has been the lack of goals up front. In fact, the two-time champions have scored only 13 goals in their 14 outings so far - the least among all the teams. What's even more worrying is that ATK have struggled to score from open play, with the majority of their goals coming from set pieces. Head coach Steve Coppell tried a more attacking system in their last match against Jamshedpur, employing Everton Santos, Edu Garcia and Manuel Lanzarote as the front three. However, eventually, ATK had to rely on two free-kick goals from Lanzarote to secure a 2-1 win. On a more positive note, Garcia's arrival in the January transfer window has definitely helped improve the team's lacklustre attack. The Spaniard's pace and trickery will be a constant threat for the Pune defence on Sunday.
Here’s a look at ATK’s current season in numbers:
FC Pune City: Kamaljit Singh (GK/C), Sarthak Golui, Martin Diaz, Sahil Panwar, Adil Khan, Marko Stankovic, Marcelo Pereira, Ashique Kuruniyan, Diego Carlos, Robin Singh, Iain Hume
ATK: Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), Gerson Vieira, John Johnson, Arnab Mondal, Ricky Lallawmawma, Pronay Halder, Pritam Kotal, Edu Garcia, Hitesh Sharma, Manuel Lanzarote (C), Everton Santos
DID YOU KNOW?
- Manuel Lanzarote has been pivotal for ATK this season and has scored in their last two victories this season.
- Pune are on a 3-match winning streak – their best-ever winning run in the Hero ISL.
- ATK have scored nearly 39% of goals in the first 15 minutes of the match .
Which team will emerge victorious?
- FC Pune City
Have your say in the comments section below.
Catch the match live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV at 7.30 PM.