Under pressure after losing their opener, former champions ATK will be desperate to secure their maiden win of the season when they take on Northeast United in a home fixture of the ongoing Indian Super League at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Thursday.
Despite overhauling the side after their ninth-place finish last season, two-time champions, ATK’s misery continued as they kicked off the fifth edition of the ISL with a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Kerala Blasters here on Saturday.
It was the Kerala outfit’s first win in Kolkata and only second against ATK from 11 matches as Englishman Steve Coppell’s tenure as ATK coach got off to a losing start.
The Highlanders, on the other hand, showed promise in their first game of the season with a 2-2 draw against a strong FC Goa in Guwahati on Monday and they will be looking to register their first win against ATK in five matches.
ATK have a 5-2 win-loss record from eight matches against the Guwahati franchise.
ATK struggled to hold possession while their team combination, especially to start Everton Santos as the lone striker instead of Kalu Uche, came in for some criticism in their match against Kerala.
The decision to field two defensive midfielders in Pronay Halder and Noussair El Maimouni did not help ATK’s cause as they lacked creativity.
With Eugeneson Lyngdoh yet to be back to his full fitness, Coppell chose not to hand him a start in the opening game and Lanzarote had to drop deep into his own half as ATK struggled in their link-up play upfront.
“We gave away the ball cheaply. At half-time, I was quite happy. We had more possession but then we gave the ball away on so many occasions. You need to keep possession,” Coppell said.
“Once they scored the goal I got the feeling we won’t be able to come back. We took long shots but didn’t impact the game.”
Come tomorrow getting the right team combination will be the biggest challenge for the astute Englishman.
“We have got a lot of work to do. In terms of playing as a team, it was sporadic. This is a brand new collection of players. Within five to six weeks it is difficult to get rhythm. Our problem was keeping the ball,” Coppell said.
Northeast United FC coach Eelco Schattorie, however, is happy with their 2-2 draw against FC Goa.
“If we look at our pre-season, we needed two more weeks to get fit. We have not been really tested in terms of our fitness. So, the result that we got was a good one,” Schattorie had said.
“We got a bit of a lucky goal in the first-half. In the second half, we did pretty well except for the last 10-12 minutes. But overall, I am happy with the 2-2.”
Northeast’s new Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche struck the equaliser and he will be a key threat against ATK while creative midfielder Rowllin Borges will look to keep up his good work and initiate the moves.