New-look ATK eye revenge against defending champions Chennaiyin (Preview)
Kolkata, Oct 1 (IANS) City-based side Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) will look to exact revenge against holders Chennaiyin FC when the two heavyweights clash in an Indian Super League (ISL) football match at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium here on Sunday.
Chennaiyin had knocked inaugural champions ATK out of the competition in last year’s semi-finals on a 4-2 aggregate.
This term, under a new coach in Jose Francisco Molina and at a new venue, the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium, the Sourav Ganguly co-owned franchise will hope to start afresh.
Dogged by injuries to key players at crucial junctures in 2015, coupled with domestic players not hitting top gear, the Kolkata side were good only in patches. Under then coach Antonio Lopez Habas, ATK peaked at the death to qualify for the play-offs, but failed to canter through to the summit round with their sloppy defending showing up.
Portuguese marquee buy Helder Postiga played just 74 minutes in which he scored twice in the opening match against the same team almost 12 months ago. The Euro 2004 finalist pulled his hamstring and was ruled out for the rest of the season after that game.
Though Iain Hume filled his shoes admirably, moving further up from his preferred position of a withdrawn forward, ATK lacked bite in the attacking third.
But for ATK’s success in the new edition, Postiga needs to poach in the goals, while on Hume and Sameehg Doutie lie the onus of feeding him with precision offerings.
ATK have retained seven of their offshore players including the likes of Borja Fernandes, Javi Lara and Tiri who were good last season, and the team management will be banking on their camaraderie to deliver the goods.
The cumulative experience of these players will also help the freshly assembled domestic player roster which has the likes of India full-back Rino Anto, East Bengal’s Bikash Jairu, Mohun Bagan’s in-form goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and his club teammates Pritam Kotal and Prabir Das among others.
Centre-back Arnab Mondal is one of two players to be retained and is expected to play the match at the heart of the defence along with Tiri. In midfield, ATK are likely to wear a similar look, with Borja, Doutie, Lalrindika Ralte and Jairu behind Hume and Postiga in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
In Chennaiyin though, the hosts have more than a formidable opponent. Though sans the services of their star marquee for the past two seasons Elano Blumer and ace striker Stiven Mendoza, both of whom did not sign for this season, the Abhishek Bachchan co-owned side have enough firepower to trouble the ATK rearguard.
Full-back John Arne Riise, Chennaiyin’s marquee this year, has a mean left foot, and comes with tonnes of experience, having played for the likes of Liverpool, Fulham, AS Roma and AS Monaco.
Nigerian striker Dudu Omagbemi — who has scored 73 goals in 89 appearances for I-League side Sporting Clube de Goa — will look to make up for Mendoza’s absence and partner hotshot India striker Jeje Lalpekhlua. Besides Bernard Mendy, Chennaiyin have also retained Raphael Augusto and Manuele Blasi, who will be tasked with giving thrust and bite to their midfield.