The Hero ISL encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium on Friday will be pitting two sides placed at either ends of the form table. Defending champions Atletico de Kolkata are riding on a series of good results where they logged 10 points in the last four rounds to reach the top of table. Their opponents FC Pune City are on the aberrant end, remaining winless in the last five rounds having picked up just two points to fall behind in the race for a knockout berth.
ATK coach Antonio Habas spoke about pushing forward the form which it got beating Chennaiyin FC 2-1 and humiliating FC Goa 4-0 at the same venue. Another win will secure a semi-final berth for the host and this made Habas sound quite insistent on preserving the form that has put ATK on top of the perch with 20 points from 12 matches.
“I am looking to win every match. The three points are very important and we will try to gain that with the fantastic home support that we have seen so far,” ATK’s Spanish coach said.
“It is true that the team has not played well in the last few rounds but we are in the touching distance of the top four. There is nothing to panic as two back-to-back wins can put us back in contention,” David Platt, the FC Pune City manager said, looking to make a turnaround.
Platt and Pune have three more rounds to go and it has now become essential to regain the winning form. Pune ae currently placed sixth with 15 points from 11 matches.
Injuries and lack of form had hit ATK hard midway through the league, where the team drifted a bit off course unable to string decent results together. But Habas has brought together a new line-up to get the holder back in contention. The effective combination of Spaniard Jamie Gavilan, young South African Sameehg Doutie and Canadian Iain Hume has got ATK’s attack back on track and Habas hopes his boys will show the right spirit and the motivation to pick three more points for the side. ATK will be missing its marquee player Helder Postiga, who as Habas indicated is virtually ruled out of the tournament “as he is yet to gain complete match fitness.”
FC Pune City, who set the pace early, but have been faltering in the second phase where their attack, centering around Romanian striker Adrian Mutu, has struggled in the last few rounds. The team will be missing two of its regulars, midfielder Sushant Mathew and defender Gouramangi Singh through injury but Platt hoped his team would buckle up in time to earn the full quota of points.