Jamshedpur - the Steel City - bore a festive look on Thursday with posters, banners and flags announcing the arrival of Indian Super League on its soil. As Jamshedpur FC readied itself for the first ‘home’ match of its debut appearance in the big-ticket football event, one could feel the excitement growing around its upcoming meeting with the defending champion ATK. The host confirmed the perception, announcing the tickets for the match had been sold out.

The roads leading to the JRD Tata Sports Complex adorned pictures of its footballers and huge club emblems hung proudly around the stadium, creating the atmosphere for an exciting contest.

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Having attained little by way of points, both teams in Friday’s contest are eager for success. After a couple of barren draws under its belt, Jamshedpur FC picked up two points visiting North East (Guwahati) and then Kerala Blasters (Kochi), which its key midfielder Mehtab Hossain described as “fulfilling the initial target.” ATK has also had a slow start to its campaign. Its bid to retain the title suffered initial hiccups when it first drew goalless against Kerala Blaster before going down 4-1 to FC Pune City at home.

Solid foundation

“We have got a set of players who have the experience of playing in the ISL. Like what Bengaluru FC has gained by retaining the core of the team, we also have a combination of players who know the conditions. Add to this the professional set-up built around the excellence of the Tata Football Academy; that will expectedly help us with better results in future,” Mehtab said.

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“One should appreciate that awful lot has been done in short time not only to the stadium but also to the facilities provided for the players. We have played two difficult games and have come out with two points,” JFC coach Steve Coppell said about his team.

Onus on ‘home’ side

“We haven’t scored and we haven’t conceded either. You can say that drawing two ‘away’ matches makes us feel a little better. Now it is on us to pick the full points from the first home game,” he added.

JFC will be missing the most expensive Indian player of this season and its central defender E. Anas owing to injury. ATK has lots more injury worries as its coach Teddy Sheringham conceded. “We had a very disappointing last week but we tried to put that behind and prepare for this new fixture. It is a tough time for us with injuries to names like Robbie Keane, Carl Baker, Jayesh Rane, Anwar Ali among others but we have to keep going with that,” Sheringham said, looking ahead for a change in fortune.

What lesson did ATK take from the big loss against FC Pune City?

Sheringham said it was developing the game to stop counter-attacks. “We always want to dictate the pace of the game but we know that goals make a lot of difference in football matches. We [were] dictating the pace of the match (against Pune City) but they got couple of good goals from counter-attacks and spoiled our rhythm. The coaches and managers try to assess the game and put the points across to the players and hope they improve. That’s what we are going to do,” he said.