Defending champion ATK will be looking for some inspired performances from its injury-ridden side as it prepares to keep its unbeaten record against Kerala Blasters FC intact.
After a goalless draw in Kochi, ATK finds itself on a sticky wicket as it steps out for the second meeting of the season against the two-time runner-up at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.
The visitor, which has brought back the former England goalkeeper David James as the head-coach, is on a comeback trail having won its last two outings. With 20 points from 14 games, Kerala Blasters is in the sixth position and has to win the remainder of its league fixtures to ensure a place in the play-offs.
“They have two titles that we haven't. It is a quite simple challenge. We need four wins from here to go into the playoffs,” the Englishman said looking back at the two final losses that saw ATK walking away with the title each time.
This apart, the ATK has not lost to Kerala Blasters in the past six meetings since 2015, thus making it a bigger challenge for James. “We have allowed players to be at their best. It is a talented squad. I am very fortunate to have such players and am enthusiastic going forward,” the Blasters coach sounded confident ahead of the match.
For ATK, which has lost the last four matches including three at home, things have turned out to be bleak in the second phase. “We still have a fighting chance. If we finish with 27 points, we can give ourselves some hope. All of them are professional footballers and we do not need motivation,” ATK’s new coach Ashley Westwood tried to figure out an escape route for the host. With 12 points from 13 outings, ATK is placed a poor eighth in the current standings.