ISL: ATK, NorthEast United fight to avoid wooden spoon

ATK, with 13 points in its kitty, will finish below NorthEast United (11 points) at the bottom if it loses its concluding league clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

ATK has won only three games out of its 18 this season.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Two-time champion ATK will clash against NorthEast United in its final match in a battle to avoid a last-place finish for both sides in the Indian Super League in Kolkata on Sunday.

It has been a disappointing season for ATK in more ways than one. It not only failed to make it to the play-offs but also found itself battling to avoid a last-place finish.

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ATK, with 13 points in its kitty, will finish below NorthEast United (11 points) at the bottom if it loses its concluding league clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

Much was expected of ATK at the start of the season. But it struggled from the start and despite a change of coach midway through, finding wins has proved to be a tough ask.

ATK has won only three games this season and has suffered defeat in its last three games.

Its 5-1 drubbing at the hands FC Goa proved too much for interim coach Ashley Westwood, who decided to step down from his responsibilities of head coach. Robbie Keane has now stepped in as player-manager for the final game against NorthEast United.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, the former Tottenham striker told reporters that even though he was only informed about his new responsibility at the club on Friday, he is still prepared for the challenge at hand.

“I got a phone call yesterday and said in the circumstances can you take the responsibility. I was, of course, happy about it. We’ve prepared these last few days to our best ability and we’re looking forward to Sunday’s game,” he said.

“I’m very relaxed and confident in this position. I have to organise a few things with the coaching staff in the last couple of days. I’ve been captain of various clubs. I was the national captain for many years. So I have almost always had that responsibility,” said Keane, who missed a number of games this season due to injury.

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Keane also said that despite having failed to make an impression, he and his team will give their best in the game tomorrow to finish the season on a winning note.

“I’m focused on the game as player-manager and the players have also responded well to me. My responsibility is to organize the team for this game, and honestly, all I’m concentrating on is that,” he said.

Ahead of the clash, ATK can take some heart from the fact that the NorthEast has been in terrible form itself. Avram Grant’s men have lost five back-to-back games, although the coach believes the results have not matched his team’s performance.

“We have to give our best no matter what the circumstances. We have played well in some of the games but we have failed to pick up the right results. I think when you are losing with one goal in games we are playing well, we need to check ourselves,” Grant said.