A win will give both teams confirmation of their spot in the playoffs…
Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters are nearly there in the ISL playoffs. Nearly will not cut it though and with only two games left and little to no room for error, both teams will be looking to edge closer to qualification with a victory on Tuesday.
Following their last-gasp, dramatic win against FC Goa, the equation for Kolkata is simpler. They are currently third in the table with 18 points and even a draw at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium will be enough to ensure they make the semi-finals for the third year running. The former champions enjoy a superior head-to-head record against both Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United FC, while only one of these teams can overtake Delhi Dynamos’s points tally as they battle amongst themselves in this league clash. Based on current form, Atletico de Kolkata will be favourites to become the third team to book their place.
Kerala Blasters have done well to reach the fourth spot for now after collecting just a point from their first three matches. A win for Kerala Blasters will take them closer to the semi-final spot (97.53%), although they will not be guaranteed a top four place as they are dependent on head-to-head record of teams who can reach 21 points like Atletico de Kolkata, Delhi Dynamos and NorthEast United FC.
Atletico De Kolkata’s head coach Jose Molina will be relieved to get his full squad fit and ready for the first time in this edition of the Indian Super League as Sameehg Doutie and Portuguese Henrique Sereno are all fit from their respective injuries.
Kerala Blasters too do not have any injury concerns or card issues as midfielder Mohammed Rafique is fit and is expected to be a part of the 18. Kervens Belfort too has recovered from his groin injury and is set to start for the Blasters.
Head to Head
The inaugural season of the ISL saw the teams play out a 1-1 draw in Kolkata before the Blasters pipped ATK 2-1 in their own den. The two teams met again in the Final of the league, which Kolkata won 1-0 to become champions. ISL 2015 witnessed Kolkata do the double over Kerala with them winning 2-1 at home and 3-2 away. Earlier this season, ATK edged past the Blasters 1-0 in Kochi thanks to a Javi Lara goal.
Man to Watch
Juan Belencoso (Atletico De Kolkata): Spanish striker Juan Belencoso has been showing what he is capable of lately, having scored the opener for ATK against Goa. With two goals and an assist to his name, he is one player who will have a lot to say in deciding the outcome of this fixture. Good in the air and a dangerous target from set-pieces, the 35-year-old Spaniard is likely to give Kerala’s defence a lot of headache.
C.K. Vineeth (Kerala Blasters): Since returning to the Kerala fold following his exploits with Bengaluru FC, C.K.Vineeth has provided his team with three goals and an assist from four matches. Vineeth’s introduction into the XI has given Kerala’s attack a whole new dimension, as his clever movement in and around the box makes life difficult for opposition defenders. Vineeth’s all-round game has not been the best, but he has the uncanny knack of being at exactly the right place at exactly the right time. For a team that has managed just three away goals all season, Kerala will welcome that trait with open arms.
Atletico De Kolkata (4-4-2): Majumdar, Kotal, Mondal, Tiri, Robert, Borja, Pearson, Avinash, Lara, Postiga, Belencoso.
Kerala Blasters (4-4-1-1): Nandy, Jhingan, Hengbart, Hughes, Josu, Mehtab, Vineeth, Belfort, Nazon, Rafi, Mahamat.
The match will be telecast live on Star Sports 1, Star Sports HD1, Star Gold, Star Gold HD, Jalsha Movies, Jalsha Movies HD, and Hotstar. You can also follow live commentary on Khel Now website by our ISL correspondent.
Photo © ISL Media
Preview by Khel Now Correspondent Kushankur Rony Rakshit. Sports passionate and content writer. He is big football and cricket fan.