ISL 2020-21: Bengaluru faces daunting task against ATK Mohun Bagan

ISL 2020: BFC is the only unbeaten outfit in the league and is joint-top for most goals scored. But ATKMB, second in the competition, is arguably the toughest side to break down.

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC players celebrate a goal against Odisha FC in the ISL on Thursday.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Bengaluru FC (BFC) will face its stiffest challenge yet when it takes on ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) at the Fatorda Stadium on Monday.

The third-placed team (12 pts) is the only unbeaten outfit in the league, is joint-top for most goals scored (11) and has won its last two matches. But ATKMB, second in the competition (13 pts), is arguably the toughest side to break down (just three goals conceded) and rediscovered its winning spirit against FC Goa after blips against Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC.

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“I think it will be a very physical challenge,” said BFC coach Carles Cuadrat on match-eve. “They (ATKMB) are tough, [with] big bodies and play a high-tempo game. You saw how they played against Goa and took advantage of counter-attacks and open space.”

“So, it's going to be that kind of a game with two compact teams and not a lot of things happening in attack. These kinds of games are normally controlled by the defenders and it will be little details that will decide the game.”

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ATKMB proved adept at this in the contest versus Goa, denying its opponent the space and time to get into a free-flowing passing rhythm. The role of Irish defensive midfielder Carl McHugh has been central to this. BFC, though known for its defensive organisation, has appeared shaky in the recent past, conceding five times in the last three matches.

But ATKMB coach Antonio Habas was adamant that his wards enjoyed no discernible advantage. “In this season, the teams are more balanced and it’s very difficult for all teams to keep on winning,” the Spaniard said. “The reality is that teams are closer, with not much difference [in points also].”

 

It thus seems like a perfect setting for some individual magic and one need not look any further than Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna for potential heroes. Chhetri has three goals thus far and has struck a fine combination with fellow forward Cleiton Silva, the kind of which has been missing since Miku left the club after the 2018-19 season.

Ashique Kuruniyan’s dynamism on the left-flank has been vital too, but BFC will have to do without it after the India winger underwent a surgery to repair the multiple fractures he suffered to his face during the win over Odisha FC on Thursday.

For ATKMB, Krishna has accounted for five goals; three of them match-winners. He may well be the one standing between BFC and a third win on the trot, a feat the 2018-19 champion hasn’t achieved in the ISL in more than two years.