Both teams will look to sign off on a winning note after disappointing campaigns.
It has been a disappointing season for ATK in the Hero Indian Super League in more ways than one. The former two-time champions not only failed to make it to the playoffs, they now find themselves battling to avoid a last-place finish against NorthEast United FC in the final league game of the season at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, on Sunday.
ATK have 13 points in their kitty but will finish below NorthEast United (11 points) at the bottom if they lose their concluding league clash.
Much was expected of ATK at the start of the season. ATK struggled from the start, though, and despite a change of coach midway through, finding wins has proved to be a tough ask. ATK have won only three games this season and have suffered defeat in their last three games in the ISL.
Their 5-1 drubbing at the hands FC Goa proved too much for interim coach Ashley Westwood, who decided to step aside from his responsibilities of head coach. Robbie Keane has now stepped in as player-manager for the final game against NorthEast United.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, the former Tottenham striker told reporters that even though he was only informed about his new responsibility at the club yesterday, he is still well prepared for the challenge at hand.
“I got a phone call yesterday and said in the circumstances can you take the responsibility. I was, of course, happy about it. We’ve prepared these last few days to our best ability and we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s game,” he said.
“I’m very relaxed and confident in this position. I have to organise a few things with the coaching staff in the last couple of days. I’ve been captain of various clubs. I was the national captain for many years. So I have almost always had that responsibility,” said Keane, who missed a number of games this season due to injury.
Keane also said that despite having failed to make an impression, he and his team will give their best in the game on Sunday to finish the season on a winning note.
“I’m focussed on the game as player-manager and the players have also responded well to me. My responsibility is to organize the team for this game, and honestly, all I’m concentrating on is that,” he said.
Ahead of the clash, ATK can take some heart from the fact that NEUFC have been in terrible form themselves. Avram Grant’s men have lost five back-to-back games, although the coach believes the results have not matched his team’s performance.
“We have to give our best no matter what the circumstances. We have played well in some of the games but we have failed to pick up the right results. I think when you are losing with one goal in games we are playing well, we need to check ourselves,” Grant said.
Head to head
ATK 4 – 2 NorthEast United FC (1 Draw)
Robbie Keane (ATK)
The Irishman has had a season plagued by injuries, but whenever on the pitch he has delivered the goods. His poaching instincts and clinical finishing has troubled his opponents throughout, and he is his team’s top scorer with five goals. Keane will look to bag a few more in ATK’s last match and help the club finish their campaign on a positive note.
Lalrindika Ralte (NorthEast United FC)
The ex-ATK player has not had as much success this season as he did with his former team in Hero ISL 2016. However, he has been dangerous with the ball at his feet, creating openings frequently. A versatile player who can play on the flanks as well as in midfield, Ralte has an assist to his name and will look to make an impact during his return to Kolkata.
ATK is likely to use a 4-4-2 formation, allowing enough movement in the midfield to aid both attack and defence.
Goalkeeper: Soram Poirei
Defenders: Keegan Pereira, Jordi Montel, Ashutosh Mehta, Prabir Das
Midfielders: Bipin Singh, Conor Thomas, Hitesh Sharma, Jayesh Rane
Forward: Robbie Keane, Martin Paterson
NorthEast United FC
Avram Grant will probably use a 4-2-3-1 formation as the Highlanders look to avoid a bottom-placed finish.
Goalkeeper: TP Rehenesh
Defenders: Nirmal Chettri, Jose Goncalves, Sambinha, Reagan Singh
Midfielders: John Mosquera, Rowllin Borges, Seiminlen Doungel, Maic Sema, Halicharan Narzary
Forward: Danilo Lopes
- Both sides have the least number of wins this season (3)
- The Highlanders have lost the most number of matches (12) followed by ATK (10)
NorthEast United FC 0 – 1 ATK (12th January 2018 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati)
ATK: L L L D L
NorthEast United FC: L L L L L