Shuffling and getting stronger!

By inducting capable new players Atletico de Kolkata is all set to defend its last season’s title in the ISL.

Helder Postiga, the star player of Atletico de Kolkata during a training session in Kolkata.   -  PTI

Atletico de Kolkata banks on a new array of combatants under the same general as it prepares for a title defence in the second season of Hero ISL. Helder Postiga, the Portuguese World Cupper, and Iain Hume, the Canadian whose poaching skills enlivened the opening season of the tournament, are the new snipers in the army under the Spanish head coach Antonio Habas.

The real test of strength will happen when Habas’ troopers confront the team of Marco Materazzi in Chennai in the lung opener on October 3. Habas knows Materazzi’s Chennaiyin FC was the most consistent side in ISL season-I and had topped the league table with the best record. Habas has admitted that the new season would be tougher as all the teams have now formed a fair idea about one another.

The coach has thus insisted on a good pre-season training, which happened over a month in Segovia, in the province of Los Angeles de San Rafael, Spain, to get the team in the best state of preparedness.

Postiga, the new marquee player of the side, and Hume replace Spanish World Cupper Luis Garcia and Ethiopian striker Fikru Teferra Lemessa. Fikru, who became the enfant terrible of ATK, giving more trouble to Habas than goals, has joined the ranks of the Chennayin this season. Habas “congratulated” the Ethiopian striker in his venture and moved on to talk about his own team which he said was exciting and balanced.

Postiga is eager to “get in the shoes of Garcia and do something better.” Garcia was named the “most exciting player” of the tournament last season for the creative role he played in the attack and midfield and Postiga, who was introduced by ATK as the co-striker with Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, wishes to take the legacy a step forward.

ATK has retained three international players — Spaniards Borja Fernandez (midfield) and José Miguel González Rey (Josemi) and the Botswana defender Ofentse Nato — who had received the highest marks on consistency in Habas’ book last season.

Apart from Postiga and Hume, the other new international names picked up from the open market include Jaime Gavilán Martínez, Sameehg Doutie, Javi Lara, Valmiro Lopes Rocha (Valdo) (midfield), José Luis Espinosa Arroyo (Tiri) (defence), and Juan Calatayud (goalkeeper).

The domestic selection also underwent a lot of changes. The team retained midfielder Baljit Singh Sahni, side-backs N. Mohan Raj and Denzil Franco and the central defender Arnab Mondal. ATK picked up extra options in defence like Augustin Fernandes, Lalchhawnkima and Rino Anto among others from the draft, while adding midfielders like Jewel Raja, Syed Rahim Nabi, Nadong Bhutia and Clifford Miranda from the open market.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Juan Calatayud and Kunzang Bhutia.

Defenders: Rino Anto, Denzil Franco, Josemi, Arnab Mandal, Augustin Fernandes, Tiri, Lachchawnkima, Nallappan Mohanraj and Syed Rahim Nabi.

Midfielders: Ofentse Nato, Borja, Sameegh Doutie, Arata Izumi, Jewel Raja, Javi Lara, Valdo, Jamie Gavilan and Clifford Miranda.

Forwards: Baljit Sahni, Helder Postiga, Nadong Bhutia, Iain Hume and Sushil Kumar Singh.

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