Plenty at stake in the clash of ISL champions

Defending ISL champion Chennaiyin FC has managed only a draw after three successive losses and will now take on a lacklustre ATK at the Salt Lake Stadium.

Manuel Lanzarote is yet to replicate last season's FC Goa form in ATK colours.   -  ISL Media

The two sides sharing the roll of honour in the Indian Super League, ATK and Chennaiyin FC, find themselves in a curious situation where losses form a majority in their performance chart. When the two meet here at the Salt Lake Stadium for the first time in the season on Monday, a win will be high on their agenda.

As the defending champion, Chennaiyin FC has managed only a draw after three successive defeats. ATK, the 2016 winner, also stuttered initially losing both its home matches but recovered in the away outings where it beat Delhi Dynamos before holding neighbour Jamshedpur FC to a draw.

“We have played only four matches and there are some new faces in the team. They are taking some time to settle down. The performance level of the team is improving with every match,” Chennaiyin FC assistant coach Sabir Pasha told the media in absence of head coach John Gregory, who was unwell.

“We want to be in the finals. Two years back everybody wrote us off, but we came up to win the final. Sport is about a day’s performance and we try to prove that tomorrow,” Pasha sounded confident. Chennaiyin does not have any issues of injury and suspension but it is the form of some key players that is holding up the side.

FULL ISL COVERAGE

For ATK coach, Steve Coppell, the challenge will be getting the home record straight. “We definitely want to be among the sides that have a positive home record. We will go to the field with optimism and look to get a positive result,” Coppell said, ahead of the match. “The league table does not mean much till the first six rounds and it is after the initial six matches that one can start looking at the prospect of a side. I hope we will be in a better position by then,” Coppell added.

The English coach looked relieved about the availability of the Nigerian striker Kalu Uche for the fixture. Uche did not figure in the last match against Jamshedpur with a troubled hamstring. His return will definitely add to the attacking might of the host, which also has Spaniard Manuel Lanzarote up front.