The Bengal outfit lead by five wins to The Highlanders’ two in the head-to-head record.
ATK travel to NorthEast United‘s home with revenge on their minds in the second Eastern Derby of this season of the Indian Super League. A goal from Rowlin Borges was the difference between the two sides and since then, both the clubs have gone through completely different ways. While ATK has struggled even with some of the best names of the league donning their jersey, NorthEast has revelled under Eelco Schattorie to come out as a strong unit.
The two team’s coaches met the media before the Eastern Derby in the pre-match press conference.
Eelco Schattorie (NorthEast United)
Eelco was in awe of the squad that ATK possesses and he didn’t try to conceal his liking. The Dutch coach said, “ATK has a very good squad, with very good players. They had a slow start. It is going to be difficult. I am sure that they have a very good team with good physicality. The squad is so good that they have Eugene on the bench, a good Indian midfielder on the bench and that says a lot about their squad.”
After praising the opponent’s team, Eelco pointed out where his side has to concentrate, and what are the challenges that his side is looking forward to, not just on the field but off it as well.
“From our side, we have to be competitive. We cannot be the victim of our own success. We were playing well, and we faced the team at the top of the table, and we lost. Suddenly people started looking at us asking to change the goalkeeper. I have the second best defence of the league. We are a team with a low budget,” said Eelco.
Eelco has been critical of the schedule that his team was made to follow. The Dutchman complained about it in the previous games as well after his side was made to play games with little rest. He knows that his side’s biggest opponent is fatigue.
“I have 17-18 genuine players in January to pick from. Some injuries have had an impact on the four games we played in a row in a short time. The biggest opponent of mine tomorrow will be the fatigue. My team is not just one player out and just one in, it needs to fit the tactics. It needs to fit the physical ability. So in this game and in the next game, my aim is that we stay in the top four. We still have a huge huge task.”
In this ‘ridiculous’ schedule, with the level of fitness of the players dropping, some new faces are bound to get a chance. But for the former East Bengal FC coach, the player who has to play, should add value to the squad and fit as per his tactical demands.
“People always say give a chance, give a chance. I don’t mind giving chances but you have to show in the training that you are at a stage that you can step into the team. There are teams who change the lineups and don’t get success. I’ll give an example, last game my goalkeeper made a few mistakes, people asked me to change the goalkeeper. That’s ridiculous, it’s not sensible. He made good saves,” Eelco explained.
Steve Coppell (ATK)
Steve Coppell has always started slow. But the former Kerala Blasters coach has managed to get his side find their feet after the slips. The case doesn’t seem to be different this time, as well as the team from Kolkata, have been on a rise lately. When asked what the secret is behind it, the coach opined, “I think the secret is that getting to know the squad sometimes takes a little bit longer sometimes. Getting to know the key components of the team and finding the right combination play together, the varieties you can use – I think it depends on how you quickly you understand your squad. There is no secret. Trying to work out and get the best out of the players you have.”
The coach was asked to reflect on the previous loss against the home side, the game in which Rowlin scored the winner after his side was reduced to 10 men. “It’s difficult to comment as we had lost a player just after 30 minutes in the game due to a sending off and that changed the whole complexion of the game.”
“We were just hanging on and kept relying on the breaks. And because we were so set in our defensive pattern, it was very difficult for NorthEast to play their football. And it was a set-piece in the final minutes of the game through which they scored and that was our own doing. So it was a false game,” the ATK coach added.
There has been an incredible improvement in the story of the two sides and North East particularly, who sit at the third position of the table currently.
“I think since then both sides have improved, and NorthEast certainly have grown in confidence winning many games, a very very solid team. Credit to the coach for the discipline. The players have been disciplined, and have expressed themselves well. It will be a tough game, and I hope we will do well.”
ATK assistant coach, Wally Downes, has left the team after getting an offer from AFC Wimbledon. Steve though is keen not to find a replacement of him until Christmas break. “Yes, it’s bound to because he is a good coach. He puts his heart and soul in what he does. It’s a great opportunity offered to him from the team he played for, it is one of the few job positions that he would have left ATK for. We will do a little bit more and spread our wings until we get somebody in. But not until the Christmas break.”
NorthEast United is struggling with fatigue issues. The issues have been a concern for most of the line-up. There are no new injuries though.
Pronay Halder has a broken nose and Kevin Lobo is down with a viral fever.
Pawan (GK), Provat, Komorski, Grgic, Robert, Rowllin, Leudo, Putea, Gallego, Redeem, Ogbeche.
Arindam (GK), Ankit, Johnson, Bikey, Ricky, Gerson, Lyngdoh, Thatal, Lanzarote, Balwant, Santos.
Did You Know?
- It is the most productive season for the Indian international Rowlin Borges in terms of numbers. (2 goals and 2 assists)
- NorthEast United so far have scored 15 goals, which is their second best in the history of ISL only 3 shy of their previous best of 18 in ISL 2015.
- ATK lead by five wins to NorthEast’s two in the head to head records.
The match will take place on Friday at 7:30 PM at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. On television, the match will be live on Star Sports. Meanwhile, it will also be streamed on Hotstar and Jio TV.