After a dream start to this season’s campaign, Kerala Blasters will be looking to secure its first win against staunch rival ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero ISL (Indian Super League) match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday.
ATK has been a bugbear for the Kochi side, which has more often lost to the Kolkata club, in the ISL. However, Kerala Blasters, under its new coach Ivan Vukomanovic, is a different proposition and a rejuvenated side. Blasters got off to a flying start in Kochi last week when it beat East Bengal FC 3-1 through three second-half goals. Ukrainian Ivan Kaliuzhnyl made a sensational debut as substitute by scoring two goals that left the Kolkata fans stunned and sent Blasters fans into raptures.
But Tuskers will love to forget the indifferent first-half it had against East Bengal and will look for a more promising start against the Mariners. Adrian Luna will again be the key man for Vukomanovic’s side and Kaliuzhnyl’s dream debut may tempt the coach to put him in the playing eleven. However, Vukomanovic has kept the cards close to his chest. When reminded of Blasters poor record against ATK, there were hymns of praise for the opposition from the Serbian coach. But a win would be the perfect boost for the Kochi side before its first away match against Odisha in Jamshedpur next week.
If Blasters came alive late in the second-half at Kochi, ATK imploded in the second half on its home turf against Chennaiyin FC. Despite dominating posession and having more shots at the rival goal, ATK made defensive errors, which were capitalised on by its rival. ATK will look to avoid similar mistakes against Kerala Blasters. The Kolkata side will also look to neutralise the high pressing, free flowing game which has brought rewards for the Kochi side. However, ATK will have its task cut out against its rival, whose confidence is sky high.