With playoff ambitions on the line, ATK host Jamshedpur in crunch tie
ATK and Jamshedpur FC lock horns at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday in an attempt to keep their playoff ambitions on track. While an undesired result will not mark a definite end to either team's chances to progress to the knockout stages, a loss will certainly make their prospects very difficult.
The two sides have faced off on three occasions in the past, but ATK have never tasted victory against their east coast rivals.
Currently sixth in the standings with 17 points from 13 matches, a win on Sunday will help Steve Coppell's men reduce the gap between them and the fourth-placed NorthEast United FC to a manageable three points, setting them up for a viable chase going into their final four matches of the league phase. A loss, however, will leave them trailing the top four by six points and a mountain to climb.
ATK's biggest strength this season has been their defence. Having let in just 12 goals in 13 matches so far, ATK boasts the second-best defensive record in the league after table toppers Bengaluru FC, who have conceded only 10. The centre-back partnership between John Johnson and Andre Bikey has flourished, providing the team with solidity at the back. However, the lack of an in-form positive striker has haunted ATK throughout the season. The team has collectively managed just 11 goals so far this season - the least among all the teams so far. The figures are quite shocking considering the star-studded attacking assets in the squad.
ATK strengthened considerably during the break, with the return of Kalu Uche from an injury and the addition of former Bengaluru winger Edu Garcia. Both were involved in ATK's first match post the winter break against Kerala Blasters FC. While Edu looked to be a potent threat going forward and even scored with a free-kick, Uche looked off the pace and struggled to make a mark.
Playmaker Manuel Lanzarote, who missed the Kerala match due to a suspension, will be back for the match against Jamshedpur and Coppell will hope that the Lanza-Garcia combination can be the answer to ATK's goal scoring woes. However, playing them together in the starting XI does pose a challenge, considering Coppell will have to sacrifice either Uche or defensive screen Gerson Vieira to comply with the five-foreigner rule.
Here’s a look at ATK’s current season in numbers:
Currently placed fifth in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 table, Cesar Ferrando's men are three points adrift of the top four. A win on Sunday will not only bring them level on points with the Highlanders after having played 14 matches each, but will also help them create a formidable six-point gap with sixth-placed ATK.
Jamshedpur head coach Cesar Ferrando will be desperate for a win on Sunday but will have to do it without some key players. Michael Soosairaj and Sergio Cidoncha, who missed Jamshedpur's last few matches before the break owing to injuries, were back in the starting line-up during the Miners' goalless draw against FC Goa earlier in the week. Cidoncha is expected to retain his place in the starting XI against ATK, but Soosairaj’s availability is under doubt as the winger is reportedly suffering from a viral infection. Centre back Raju Gaikwad will most probably be out of contention after sustaining an injury.
Ferrando will also be without the services of veteran striker Tim Cahill and winger Carlos Calvo for the match. Cahill is out for an unspecified duration due to an injury which will require him to undergo surgery. Calvo, on the other hand, is serving a three-match suspension.
Goalkeeper Subrata Paul was in top form against Goa, winning the Hero of the Match award and will look to put on a similar performance against ATK.
Here’s a look at Jamshedpur’s current season in numbers:
ATK: Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), John Johnson, Ricky Lallawmawma, Pritam Kotal, Andre Bikey, Manuel Lanzarote (C), Pronay Halder, Hitesh Sharma, Balwant Singh, Edu Garcia, Kalu Uche
Jamshedput FC: Subrata Paul (GK), Pratik Chowdhary, Tiri (C), Robin Gurung, Dhanachandra Singh, Mario Arques, Pablo Morgado, Sergio Cidoncha, Memo, Jerry Mawhmingthanga, Farukh Choudhary
DID YOU KNOW?
- Jamshedpur have scored most goals in the league via set pieces (10).
- A win for Jamshedpur will take them above NorthEast in the table on basis of goal difference.
- Just 3 goals have been scored in the three Hero ISL meetings between these two sides.
Which creative midfielder will have the biggest impact on the match?
- Manuel Lanzarote
- Mario Arques
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.