The game also marks the ISL’s return to the iconic Salt Lake Stadium for the first time since 2015.
With the fourth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) already underway, the Mecca of Indian Football, Kolkata will see its first glimpse of the glamorous league on Sunday. After a credible 0-0 draw away to Kerala Blasters, Kolkata franchise ATK will lock horns against FC Pune City at the iconic Salt Lake Stadium. Both the Bengal Tigers and their newly-appointed head coach Teddy Sheringham will look forward to breaking Pune’s sweat in their own backyard with a positive result.
The Stallions, on the other hand, suffered a shock loss in their opening outing against Delhi Dynamos. Ranko Popovic, the new head coach of the Pune franchise is expected to provide a tough fight to the hosts, with the idea of returning back to winning ways.
With a flat beginning to their ISL season, both teams will be eyeing all three points on Sunday evening.
ATK started slowly last season too, but qualified for the playoffs and eventually won the title. The team from the City of Joy has gone through a massive management overhaul in the last few months. Cutting off the partnership with Atletico De Madrid resulted in the Kolkata franchise ditching their traditional Spanish approach to the game which had helped them become the most successful side in the history of the league.
However, their season opener against rivals Blasters featured some disheartening moments for the ATK fans, as the Kolkata side could not dominate their opponents and failed to score. A huge shift from the traditional Spanish game to the English approach resulted in the side having trouble maintaining control in midfield as well as delivering penetrating forward passes like in previous seasons.
Like ATK, Pune City too are under new management with Serbian Ranko Popovic taking over from Antonio Lopez Habas after another disappointing campaign in 2016. They could not outscore Dynamos in the opening match of the season. A fine attacking unit, the Pune side conceded three goals in their last game, all of which had been due to defensive blunders. All problems aside, if Popovic wants to put these troubled times behind him and lead his side to the playoffs, reorganization of the rearguard is a must if they are to get a result against the defending champions.
Recap Kerala Blasters 0-0 ATK
Since the hosts returned from their pre-season tour in Dubai, ATK have lost their marquee player Robbie Keane to injury. As confirmed by the manager himself, the former Northern Ireland international will be out for the next two weeks, which includes the Kolkata-based side’s meeting against Pune City.
Ashutosh Mehta and Jayesh Rane are also out of action with hamstring and knee problems respectively. However, on the bright side, the coach has confirmed that Shankar Sampingraj and Anwar Ali are making quick recovery and should come back to the fold ahead of schedule.
On the other hand, Pune have had some small disturbances in their camp in terms of injuries before their opening game of the ISL this season. However, Popovic assured that the problems have been dealt with. As a result, Jewel Raja who had to be substituted in the first minute against the capital club is out of the reckoning for this one. The rest of the squad is fit and available for selection.
The two teams have played six games so far. Of these, Pune City have won three with ATK having the solitary win while the remaining two matches were drawn.
Moments FC Pune City 2-3 Delhi Dynamos
Man To Watch
Eugeneson Lyngdoh-ATK: The India international did not have the best of games against Blasters last time out. But, having moved from new entrants Bengaluru FC in the summer he’s set to form a key cog of the Bengal Tigers’ team this season. In Pune, he faces his former ISL club and will be keen to impress in front of the packed house that is sure to await the teams at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Marcelinho-FC Pune City: The Brazilian forward dazzled the league last season and finished as its top scorer. However, though he assisted the late consolation goal in the 2-3 defeat to Delhi on Wednesday it was a below-par evening by his own high standards. That said, the frontman is a man for the big occasion and this is exactly the kind of game to get the best out of him.
ATK: Debjit (GK), Prabir, Thorpe, Monel, Pereira, Nongrum, Thomas, Lyngdoh, Zequinha, Sharma, Kuqi.
FC Pune City: Amarjit, Fanai, Rafael, Gurtej, Harpreet, Lucca, Isaac, Adil, Carlos, Alfaro, Marcelinho.
Did You Know?
- In their last 5 competitive matches, FC Pune City have only one win under their belt. The other four matches were either drawn or lost by the Stallions.
- ATK have scored seven goals against the Maharashtra franchise till date, one less than what they have conceded against them so far.
- The last time ATK went up against FC Pune City, the match resulted in a 0-0 draw, much like ATK’s season opener against Kerala Blasters.
The match will be broadcast live on Star Sports 2 and Stars Sports 2 HD. It will be also available for live streaming on Hotstar.