ISL 2018-19: FC Pune City, ATK remain in the hunt for play-off spot

ATK, with 20 points from 14 games, is placed sixth, while Pune City is a spot below with 14 points but has five matches left to play, giving it an outside chance of reaching the top four of the Indian Super League table.

FC Pune City forward Emiliano Alfaro attends a training session on Saturday.   -  ISL MEDIA

FC Pune City hosts ATK in an exciting Indian Super League (ISL) clash knowing anything less than a win will affect its chances of remaining in contention for a top-four spot.

Both teams are in with a fighting chance of making it to the play-offs. ATK, with 20 points from 14 games, is placed sixth on the table and is four points off the fourth spot. Pune City is a spot below with 14 points but has five matches left to play, giving it an outside chance of reaching the top four.

However, anything less than victory on Sunday will dent either team's chances.

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The host is coming into the tie on the back of a three-match winning run, the latest being a 2-1 away win over Chennaiyin FC. While the momentum is with the Stallions, new coach Phil Brown would want them to improve their defence which looked a little jumpy against Chennai.

"My plan is to get my key players on the ball those who can win us the game. Last week (against Chennaiyin FC) we did that successfully towards the end, but we need that from the start. Even if we go a goal behind we need to win the game. We need to win the remaining games. We have to get our noses in front and then grow from that confidence," said coach Brown.

Kalu Uche's return to the side will bolster ATK's attack.   -  ISL MEDIA

 

Steve Coppell's side was not prolific up front in the initial part of the season, scoring only 10 goals in the 12 matches before the break but has found the net three times in two matches now.

After bringing in Edu Garcia in the winter transfer window, the team looks much more fluid and threatening going forward. The potential return of star striker Kalu Uche will further bolster the ATK attack.

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The interplay between Manuel Lanzarote, Garcia and Everton Santos has been exquisite at times, which was seen in ATK's 2-1 win over Jamshedpur FC last week.

"The mood has been one of anticipation, we look forward to every game. We have been (close) to the top four, we have to make that gap as small as possible. We go into the final three matches and we are still in contact, literally, anything can happen," said Coppell.

The defence led by John Johnson will need to be wary of Pune's pacy frontmen and Coppell does have a dilemma in front of him as to whether to deploy Andre Bikey alongside John Johnson or not, which would mean he will have to sacrifice a foreigner in attack.