ISL: ATK, Kerala Blasters eye play-off spots

The winner would take a giant step towards the semi-finals while a draw would bring curtains on the prospects of the three teams (FC Pune City, holder Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa) in the bottom half of the eight-team league.

South African Sameehg Doutie has been in good form for Atletico de Kolkata.   -  PTI

Atletico de Kolkata looks at home comfort while the visitor Kerala Blasters FC aspires to invoke the confidence and shape of its recent performances when the two square up in a crucial Indian Super League match here at the Rabindra Srobar Stadium on Tuesday.

The winner would take a giant step towards the semi-finals while a draw would bring curtains on the prospects of the three teams (FC Pune City, holder Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa) in the bottom half of the eight-team league. The two opponents are tied on 18 points each but ATK is placed third on account of a better goal average.

Blasters is still reeling under the impact of the 5-0 battering it received visiting the current League leader Mumbai City FC barely nine days ago. Having lost three and drawn two of the six matches it played a traveller, Blasters does not have much to look for inspiration in the past. Similarly, Atletico Kolkata does not have a good home record having won just one of the five matches it played here. This made both the sides cautious and guarded about their chances ahead of the important match while both ended up praising the strength of the other.

Blasters’ coach Steve Coppell thus harped on putting its best effort to extract a point from the match. Having to play the last match at home, where it earned four of the five wins so far, the Blasters would be happy to go back with a point. This result will be in the best interest of the few in the top order, which will see best five teams (in terms of points) remaining in contention of the four semifinal berths, one of which is already confirmed by current leader Mumbai FC.

Atletico Kolkata would be looking to preserve the form it gained with the last-minute (2-1) win over FC Goa in its previous outing. Coach Jose Molina said his team would be going all out for a win as that is the only option with the league approaching the business end. Molina had every reason to feel confident when his marquee player, the Portuguese world Cupper Helder Postiga, asserted, “The situation is comfortable for us and we are prepared for a difficult game against a very good opponent.”

Postiga has Canadian Iain Hume, Scotsman Stephen Pearson and Spaniard Juan Belencoso as possible companions in the attack, which gives Molina enough to choose from. Molina’s worries start in the midfield, where the dependable South African winger Sameegh Doutie is uncertain. So is the Indian Lalrindika Ralte while in the back-line Portuguese defender Henrique Sereno is also nursing an injury.

Coppell said “performance is judged by results” and this means Blasters will have to find a really good combination in the attack to upturn its poor record as a visitor. Nine out of Blasters’ 11 goals have happened in the second half making it an interesting sequence. Coppell preferred to treat this record with humour saying that his team will prefer to play the second half first against ATK to ensure a favourable result.

  Dugout videos