In-form ATK host league leaders FC Goa

In what could turn out to be a classic battle, current table toppers FC Goa cross swords with Atletico de Kolkata at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.

FC Goa coach Zico has told his players to forget their 7-0 thrashing of Mumbai City FC in the previous round.   -  ISL SPORTZPICS

In what could turn out to be a classic battle, current table toppers FC Goa cross swords with Atletico de Kolkata here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. Both teams will be looking to brighten their chances of making the knock-out phase. The contest, like always, is likely to draw more on the nerves of the two opponents which represent the two most proficient centres of the country’s football.

FC Goa are currently on top with 18 points from 10 matches while ATK are third with 17 points from 11 matches. With the tournament reaching the business end, both need a win to be assured of a place in the last-four.

Riding on the confidence of creating the biggest winning margin in the tournament so far, Goa will be looking preserve the form that gave them the 7-0 win against Mumbai City FC in the last round. “We always play for a win and have come here to play for a result. There is no relaxing over a past result but it will definitely give us the confidence,” the legendary Brazilian Zico, who now coaches FC Goa, said.

Zico’s boys have remained unbeaten in the last four rounds placing them on an even keel with their hosts, who are also unbeaten in their last three matches. But what gives Zico’s boys the mental advantage may well be the big win in the previous round.

Thongkhosiem Haokip and Dudu Omagbemi, the two players in the Goa attack who scored a hat-trick each against Mumbai City, have raised the visitors’ hopes ahead of the match. The attack rides on the support of the midfield and defence where the likes of Spaniard Jofre Matteu, Brazilians Jonatan Lucca and Leo Moura, and Frenchman Gregory Arnolin have played their parts well.

But what would be keeping Zico worried may well be the unfavourable head-to-head record with Atletico de Kolkata. Spaniard Antonio Habas, who has proved his astuteness in helping ATK to the title in the inaugural season, has a clear edge over Zico enjoying an unbeaten record in the last five meetings of the two sides. ATK, who have beaten Goa twice and drawn the other three, had drawn 1-1 in Goa in the first phase of the tournament. This could encourage the hosts to break the apparent might of their opponents and continue the winning form they gained downing Chennaiyin FC in the last round at home.

Habas, who had to contain with a series of failures in the first phase, seems to have reinstated the rhythm in the side. With Canadian Iain Hume, South African Sameehg Doutie, Spaniard Valdo, Indians Izumi Arata and Jewel Raja playing their parts well, Habas now has lot of options in the attack. The last three rounds have seen a good coordination among the three departments getting ATK back in the race for a knock-out berth. The Spaniards Borja Fernandez, Jaime Gavilan and Tiri have given solidity in defence and midfield where the Indians Arnab Mondal and Augustin Fernandes have also played with responsibility.

“Goa are a good side and enjoying the momentum but ATK are also prepared to win,” is how Habas set the mood of the match.

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