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Rival Watch: ATK Mohun Bagan to clash against Sri Lanka's Blue Star SC

Published at :April 8, 2022 at 10:25 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : Blue Star SC Media)

Uttiyo Sarkar

The Mariners would hope to make it to the AFC Cup group stage for a second consecutive season.

ATK Mohun Bagan are all set to kick-start their AFC Cup qualification playoffs. The Kolkata-based side aims to make it to the competition for the second consecutive season. In the Preliminary Round Two clash, ATK Mohun Bagan will face Sri Lankan side Blue Star SC at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Tuesday.

The reigning champions of the Sri Lanka Super League, Blue Star are the best club that the Island country has to offer. They might not have a star-studded squad, but boast some hard-working, valuable players who are capable of causing an upset if underestimated.

Recent Performances

Blue Star SC
Blue Star defeated Machhindra FC 2-1 in the Preliminary Round One (Courtesy: Blue Star SC Media)

Blue Star qualified for the Preliminary Round Two game against the Mariners by defeating Nepal’s Machhindra FC 2-1 in the Preliminary Round One encounter on Tuesday. That was their first competitive game in nearly three months after the Sri Lankan league finished in January.

Blue Star won the Sri Lankan Super League in a rather dominant fashion, winning seven out of their nine games and losing just once. In that period, they scored 21 goals and conceded only nine.

The Blue Army have won their last five games in all competitions. They were victorious in their last four league games, scoring more than three goals in all of them.

About the Team

Formed back in 1978, Blue Star have since developed themselves as one of the premier teams of the Sri Lanka domestic circuit. They have won the Sri Lanka top division twice, including last season, when it was rebranded to the Sri Lanka Super League.

In their history, they have also won the Dialog Champion of Champions Trophy once. While Blue Star have never tasted continental success, the closest they came to doing so was in the AFC President’s Cup in 2005, when they finished third after losing in the semi-finals.

The Coach

Banda Samarakoon only took over as the manager of Blue Star at the start of the year. The club appointed him in early January and the newly appointed head coach was only able to manage two league games before the campaign was over.

However, the Blue Army have been quite dominant under their new boss so far. They have a 100% win record under Samrakoon and average three goals a game. While they have not faced an opposition like ATK Mohun Bagan yet, Samarakoon has proven his mettle as a manager who encourages attacking football.

He seems to be shaping his side to be more attack-minded with a 4-3-3 formation and promotes Sri Lankan players. The Blue Army have produced some admirable, fast-paced attacking football under him and he’s produced some impressive stuff.

Players to Watch

Tharindu Eranga

Tharindu Eranga
Eranga will be crucial in the Blue Star SC defence (Courtesy: Tharindu Eranga Facebook)

Blue Star SC realize they need to pull off a miracle to defeat ATK Mohun Bagan in their own yard in their next AFC Cup game. They’ll be on the back foot, but captain Tharindu Eranga needs to hold everyone together. The centre-back has to lead from the front with his work and be a highly alert, demanding figure who can inspire those around him.

The experienced defender has to maintain utmost concentration to mark the likes of Roy Krishna out of the game and nullify ATKMB’s flow into the final third. Erange will have a huge responsibility to lead his side in their pivotal AFC Cup match. But, knowing how important he was to Blue Star keeping a brilliant defensive record in the Sri Lanka Super League, he’s bound to frustrate the Mariners with his sturdy attitude.

Kaveesh Fernando

ATK Mohun Bagan will absolutely take the fight to Blue Star and torment them with persistent attacking moves. They will test goalkeeper Kaveesh Fernando a lot and the Sri Lanka goalkeeper needs to be at the peak of his game. Fernando enjoyed a pretty solid season in the Sri Lanka Super League with his side, keeping four clean-sheets in nine appearances and conceding just nine goals.

The 26-year-old is an impressive shot-stopper and can come up with clutch saves when his side need him to. He produced a good effort against Macchindra FC and came up with some timely saves to help his team. The Blue Star goalkeeper is guaranteed to be tested and has to maintain 100% concentration to make clutch saves and increase his side’s chances of winning.

Shenal Sandesh

Shenal Sandesh
Sandesh the second goal in the playoffs win against Machhindra FC (Courtesy: AFC Media)

While Blue Star aren’t expected to dominate possession against a side like ATK Mohun Bagan, they should get a few opportunities to test the Mariners. It’s in those moments that they have to pounce on and convert their chances. The Blue Army’s striker Senal Sandesh had a brilliant season for his side in the Sri Lanka Super League. He ended as the league’s top scorer with 10 goals in nine appearances.

Sandesh is a clinical finisher, knowing how to sniff out opportunities and convert when his side need it the most. He needs to prove his mettle on the biggest stage, troubling defenders with his smart movement and also helping link-up some nice attacks. More than anything else, Sandesh needs to finish off whatever chances he gets.

What to Expect

Despite their attack-minded nature, Blue Star should settle for a more defensive-minded setup against ATK Mohun Bagan, knowing their superiority in quality. The Blue Army should look to put numbers at the back, crowd their backline and restrict any movement for the ATKMB players in the final third.

However, Banda Samarakoon’s side will play to win. As a result, expect them to look for quick counter-attacks whenever possible. They’ll also look to capitalize on set-pieces and try to expose ATKMB’s apparent weakness in defending from that scenario. The Blue Army might be strict underdogs in this one, but underestimating them can cause severe consequences for the Mariners.

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