ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) and Bengaluru FC (BFC) will clash for the Indian Super League 2022-23 title at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Saturday.
Juan Ferrando’s ATKMB qualified for the final after beating current champion Hyderabad FC 4-3 on penalties in the semis, while Bengaluru FC beat Mumbai City FC 9-8 on penalties to reach the summit clash.
Ahead of the final, here is what we can expect from both teams and the way the teams can shape up for Saturday.
At the onset, it is important to note that Bengaluru FC has players in its squad, who are familiar with the opposition camp. Bengaluru’s Sandesh Jhingan, Prabir Das, and Roy Krishna played for the Mariners last season and are familiar with Juan Ferrando’s style of play.
While Simon Grayson acknowledged that this won’t act as an added advantage because of the constant evolution in playing style and tactical adjustments by Ferrando.
In terms of formation, Ferrando has mostly resorted to 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3. Having to deal with recurring injuries and suspensions throughout the season, the Spaniard has not always had the luxury of fielding his preferred players.
The Mariners have a good attacking arsenal, therefore, Ferrando will most likely play Carl McHugh as the lone defensive midfielder in a 4-3-3 setup, who will be playing in front of the back four of Asish Rai, Pritam Kotal, Slavko Damjanovic, and Subhasish Bose.
If McHugh plays the lone anchor role in midfield, it will allow Hugo Boumous to play further up the pitch and form the front three with Manvir Singh and Dimitrios Petratos.
However, given it is a final against an in-form team like Bengaluru, Ferrando might look for more stability in the middle of the park and go for a 4-2-3-1 setup with Glan Martins partnering McHugh in the pivot. They both can play behind an attacking trio of Boumous, who will play the traditional No. 10 role, and wingers Ashique Kuruniyan and Manvir Singh. Dimitrios Petratos will play the furthest up the pitch as the lone striker.
Bengaluru’s defence has to be wary of not only Petratos’ goal-scoring prowess but also his tendency to drop down and create chances. It is not just Boumous who creates chances from the middle, but Petratos, who, along with being ATKMB’s top-scorer with 10 goals, also has seven assists.
For Bengaluru and Grayson, going to a back three has worked wonders this year. So, the chances of him changing his preferred 3-5-2 formation are highly unlikely, barring any last-minute injuries.
Here, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Sandesh Jhingan and Bruno Ramires will play in the three-man defence. The two wing-backs- Naorem Roshan Singh and Prabir Das will be mobile along the flanks, contributing in both defence and attack.
Grayson has two talented youngsters in the middle of the park- Rohit Kumar and Suresh Wangjam who will play with the experienced Javier Hernandez, Bengaluru’s top-scorer with seven goals. Rohit and Suresh’s excellent work rate, added to Javi’s vision and ability to find the net from distance, is what makes BFC’s midfield dangerous. But, in the final, they will be up against an equally threatening midfield of ATK Mohun Bagan.
Up front, Sivasakthi Narayanan and Roy Krishna will play as the attacking duo for the Blues.
Both pacy forwards, Bengaluru FC will be dangerous in counter-attacks. Therefore, the Mariners will need to be wary of balls behind the defence. Sivasakthi and Krishna, both like to play off the last line of defence. Having players like Javi, who is adept in making defence-splitting passes, there is the danger of leaving too much space behind for Sivasakthi and Krishna, who are difficult to catch at full stride.
Ferrando has done a good job in organising his team’s defence, and having the joint-most number of clean sheets (12) is proof of that, but records go out of the window in high-stake games such as finals.
Overall, expect a cracking contest between two in-form teams in a battle to lift the coveted trophy.