ATK Mohun Bagan are all set to start their AFC Cup 2022 campaign at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Wednesday. They’ll face fellow Indian side Gokulam Kerala in the first match, before going on to play against Maziya S&RC and Bashundhara Kings.

The Mariners will be full of energy as they’re playing in front of their home crowd. But expectations will also be rife. They will be expected to win the group, being the favorites after all. While every single ATKMB player has to bring their very best to the table, there are certain individuals who will decide their fate in the group stages.

A few ATK Mohun Bagan players excelled in the last Indian Super League (ISL) and recent AFC Cup qualifiers. There will be a lot of responsibility on their shoulders to get the team over the line in the group stages too. So let’s look at the five ATK Mohun Bagan players to watch out for in the AFC Cup group stages.

5. Manvir Singh

Manvir Singh
Singh scored eight goals in ISL 2021-22 season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Manvir Singh has taken his time to develop into Juan Ferrando’s system, but his performances in the AFC Cup qualifiers proved that he’s only getting better at it. Singh scored a brace in ATKMB’s 5-0 win over Blue Star in their first AFC Cup qualifying game. He also put in a hard-working shift in the 3-1 win over Dhaka Abahani, allowing Prabir Das beside him to thrive.

While Singh’s final product and delivery still need improving, he is held in high regard by Ferrando because of his impressive counter-attacking threat, ability to go past defenders, and physicality.

He’ll look to be a menace for defenders in the upcoming group stages and help stretch the defences with his smart work. As long as he can be more clinical with his final delivery, Singh can help ATKMB run riot in the upcoming games.

4. Roy Krishna

Roy Krishna
Krishna scored two goals in ATKMB’s previous AFC Cup campaign (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Roy Krishna was not able to play in ATK Mohun Bagan’s AFC Cup qualifying campaign because of some personal issues. He will, although, be back for the AFC Cup group stages and Juan Ferrando is absolutely going to use him in the games.

Krishna might’ve had a difficult campaign in the ISL last time around, but nobody can deny his quality. In 60 ISL matches, he has 36 goals and 18 assists.

The Fijian striker is the entire package, being able to link up brilliantly, moving defenders out of positions to help teammates get into scoring areas, and finishing moves off expertly. Coming off an underwhelming league campaign, Krishna will be desperate to impress in these games. Knowing his ability to score from nothing, expect final product and quality, it’d be foolish to write him off.

3. Sandesh Jhingan

Sandesh Jhingan
Jhingan missed the qualifiers due to injury (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Like Krishna, Sandesh Jhingan also missed out on the AFC Cup qualifiers. He was struggling from injury issues and was given time off for the games. But the commanding centre-back should be back at the heart of ATKMB’s backline for the upcoming group games. Jhingan will hope to use these games to get some vital practice for the upcoming 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

Jhingan’s experience and ability to lead a backline strongly will be vital to Ferrando’s men maintaining a sturdy defensive record in the group stages. The centre-back will need to be ATKMB’s defensive leader, coming up with clutch challenges and neutralizing the threat of opposition strikers.

With Jhingan eager to prove his quality against dangerous opposition, it’ll be interesting to see how does in the pressure scenarios.

2. Liston Colaco

Liston Colaco
With eight goals, Liston Colaco is the highest Indian scorer in ISL 2021-22 (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Liston Colaco was arguably ATK Mohun Bagan’s most exciting player to watch in the last ISL season. He carried the side to a lot of success on his own. With eight goals and four assists in 22 appearances last season, Colaco was the most prolific Indian player in the league and tormented opposition defenders with his fiery style. Liston will now be tested at the continental level and get to prove just how good he is.

Colaco’s unpredictable style makes him a lip-smacking option for the Mariners’ fans. With his rapid pace, impressive close control and dribbling ability, he can get past the sturdiest of defenders.

Colaco will have the responsibility to create big chances with his delivery from the wings, as well as drift in to destabilize opposition defences and look to score goals. If he can gain his swagger, Liston can easily end the group stages as ATKMB’s MVP.

1. Joni Kauko

Joni Kauko
Kauko has established himself as a regular starter under Ferrando (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Joni Kauko has grown into a midfield engine and inspirational leader for ATK Mohun Bagan since arriving last year. He proved his quality in the AFC Cup qualifiers, assisting a number of goals as well as scoring a brace in the 5-0 win over Blue Star.

That came after a pretty impressive debut ISL campaign, in which he scored three goals and registered six assists! Kauko is an absolute machine in midfield, having the qualities to do whatever his team needs from him.

He can be a destroyer, someone to dictate the tempo of games or even create chances at will with his excellent creativity. Kauko has to be ATKMB’s commander in chief if they want to excel in the AFC Cup. With a ton of experience – including playing in the Euros – in him, Kauko has to bring his best to the table to help ATKMB dominate games.

With the Finland midfielder intent on redeeming the disappointments from last season’s AFC Cup campaign, it’d be fascinating to see how he does this time around.

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