The Bengal Tigers take on the Men of Steel with playoffs hopes for both teams fading fast.
ATK have been below par by their own standards this season in the Hero Indian Super League. The defending champions find themselves in an unfamiliar eighth place with just seven games in hand. But interim head coach Ashley Westwood believes the team can still make the playoffs, even if his injury-ravaged team fail to get the right result when they host Jamshedpur FC at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, on Sunday.
“We need a win for confidence and for team morale. But I would still say we don’t need to win all the games we have left. Even if we lose tomorrow’s game, I will say we are still not out of the competition,” Westwood said during the pre-match press conference.
Westwood took over as interim head coach after the club parted ways with Teddy Sheringham. But the change in coach didn’t bring any change in results for ATK. In his first game in charge as the interim coach, Westwood saw his team go down 1-2 to Chennaiyin FC at home. And to make matters worse, some of his key players limped off during the game. Both Portuguese midfielder Zequinha and defender Ryan Taylor came off in the game to add to the long list of injured players at ATK which includes star striker Robbie Keane.
“We have injury concerns about some of the foreign players but you can only play five foreign and we have them,” he said.
Jamshedpur FC are also coming on the back of a loss. Steve Coppell’s team went down to FC Pune City in their last match but a win against ATK will see Jamshedpur FC, who are currently fifth on the table with 16 points, go equal on points with fourth-placed FC Goa.
Coppell expects a tough game against ATK but he believes his side has the ability to get the right result on Sunday.
“It has been a difficult time for ATK with the transition of the coach. But when I see the table there is a distance developing between the top four and the other teams, so it’s up to others to keep up the pressure. I’m expecting a competitive game,” he said.
Talking about his side’s chances of making it to the top four, the English coach said, “To be honest, I’m not thinking about the playoffs. As a coach, I think about the next game. If we can win the next game and I think we can. We need to get more positive results to affect the top four. They seem to be winning at the right time and when they slip up, they follow it up with a right result, so it’s difficult.”
Conor Thomas (ATK)
The Englishman has played his part to the tee in his debut Hero ISL season, having taken on the role of a midfield anchorman for ATK. Slick and incisive with his passes, Thomas also breaks down several attacking moves from the opposition by dropping into the defence line. The 24-year-old has a knack of reading the game well and is not shy of pushing forward to be involved in attacks either.
Memo (Jamshedpur FC)
The Brazilian has anchored the midfield well for Jamshedpur. An influential customer, Memo is adept at breaking down opposition attacks while also carrying forward counters with gusto. He often surges forward and puts in a good few crosses from the flanks, while also protecting the backline to good effect. The 29-year-old gets plenty of shots away as well and will look to have an impact when his team visits Kolkata.
Ashley Westwood would probably field his team in the 4-2-3-1 formation, allowing enough back-up in defence to contain Jamshedpur’s attack and also to add intent upfront.
Goalkeeper: Debjit Majumder
Defenders: Keegan Pereira, Ashutosh Mehta, Tom Thorpe, Prabir Das
Midfielders: David Cotterill, Ryan Taylor, Conor Thomas, Rupert Nongrum, Jayesh Rane
Forward: Martin Paterson
ATK’s interim head coach on his team’s current mentality: “We’re as confident as we can be. There was a bit of a reaction in the last game. We were unlucky with the three injuries but there were encouraging signs. The players showed aggression and energy. I’m sure we’re going to build on that tomorrow.”
Steve Coppell may use a 4-2-3-1 formation that provides enough versatility in the middle and on the flanks.
Goalkeeper: Subrata Paul
Defenders: Souvik Chakrabarti, Anas Edathodika, Tiri, Andre Bikey
Midfielders: Mehtab Hossain, Memo, Wellington Priori, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Farukh Choudhary
Forward: Izu Azuka
Jamshedpur’s gaffer on what he expects from the encounter: “I’m expecting a tough game. Now that there’s a distance building between the top four teams and the rest, it’s up to the other teams to try and bridge the gap. I’ve been there and I know what it’s like. I expect a very competitive match.”
- Jamshedpur have four wins, four draws and four losses from all of their fixtures this season, while ATK has three wins, three draws and five losses
- The league debutants have the least number of goals scored against them so far (11) and the maximum clean sheets (5)
Jamshedpur FC 0 – 0 ATK (1st December 2017 at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur)
ATK: L L W L D
Jamshedpur FC: L W W L D