The hosts have been unable to defeat the Marina Machans in their last four meetings.
The battle of the former Indian Super League (ISL) champions is set to go down at the Salt Lake Stadium on Friday. ATK look to improve upon their recent boost in form while defending champions Chennaiyin FC are still looking for their first win of the season. Neither of the two ISL winners has started the season well, as ATK is yet to register a point at home. Chennaiyin will look to use ATK’s poor home form to their advantage, to pick up their first win of the campaign.
Here is what the gaffers from both clubs spoke about prior to their upcoming encounter:
Steve Coppell (ATK)
Coppell praised Everton Santos’ versatility in a football field
Steve Coppell seemed optimistic after what was a decent away set of fixtures for ATK. When asked on whether those results is the start of improving times for ATK, he said, “I hope we are. We obviously had a slow start. The first game we lost 2-0 and wasn’t a good match for us. In the 2nd game, we shot ourselves in the foot. We played well against Delhi and against Jamshedpur we had to work hard. I hope we can look forward to the next couple of games with optimism and put ourselves in a good position.”
When asked whether this is the perfect time for ATK to make the Salt Lake stadium their fortress, he said, “I think at this early stage of the season, there have been many teams who are of a certain level. The teams are beating each other very regularly and have elevated themselves in the early stage. We want to be in that elite group. For that, we need to win at home. It is our responsibility to accept that challenge and collect points at our home ground in front of our home fans.”
When asked on whether there’s any pattern to the ISL sides’ poor home form, he said, “I think there is a pattern. I’m not sure if I can identify the reasons for it. It’s possibly because the grounds are so distant. I think if we look at the stats over the last few years, there are not many teams who have had a dominant home record. To be a top team, you have to attain a dominant home record. We need to improve, to become a top team and to have a stronger home record.”
Eugeneson Lyngdoh is yet to starts a game for ATK this season. When asked about his lack of starts, Coppell explained, “I’ve got 25 players! The centre of the field is really competitive, With Lanza and Pronoy, two internationals have to play. Eugene is coming off a bad injury and he needs a game to do his best. I’m sure when the opportunity does come, he’ll grab it with both hands and make himself a regular.
Coppell praised youngster Komal Thatal’s work for ATK so far and said, “He’s obviously a young man. He’s still earning his profession. It’s important for us to have his legs. He’s bright, he’s inventive and energetic. But as he’s learning his trade, it’s good for me to have options after an hour. He’s making great progress and I hope he continues in that way and become a permanent starter.”
Coppell gave an update on striker Kalu Uche, who missed the game against Jamshedpur the other day He said, “Kalu is fit. When we were in Jamshedpur, we did a few sprints and he just felt his hamstring. We made a call them to rest him for that game knowing these two home games are coming soon. I made the call to leave him out totally and he’s fit to play tomorrow.”
When asked on whether this is the best time to face Chennaiyin knowing their poor run, he said, “I think their most recent game, they were very good. They looked strong against Delhi and looked like they did last season. We’re happy to play anybody and we just want to challenge ourselves against anybody.”
Chennaiyin FC are going through a real rough patch and ATK can use their bad form to their advantage. When asked about whether their struggling form can help his side, Coppell said, “I don’t think there’s any advantage. I just think about how we can play the opposition. Can we win the game? Yes, of course, we can. We have a game-plan and hope that will bring fruition and point for us. They are desperate for a win and it’s going to be a game between two sides fighting for three points at stake.”
ATK have conceded five goals so far and looked very shaky defensively. Speaking on his team’s defensive frailties, he said, “We’ve conceded a couple of set-piece goals I don’t think we’ve conceded much from open play. Every team is very aware of set-pieces. We look to score goals ourselves from set-pieces and look to defend opponents’ set-pieces as well. I don’t think it’s a weakness for us, but we need to prove every game that it’s not a weakness.”
Chennaiyin FC played against Delhi Dynamos on Tuesday and travel to Kolkata to play three days later. Coppell was asked on whether their tiredness can benefit ATK, and said, “If it does, it’ll only play a part in the last 10-15 minutes. I don’t think it’ll play a difference in the first 70 minutes. I hope they are tired, but until we get out playing, we won’t know We’re not counting on any favors from them. For us to win, we have to play well.”
When asked about whether the International break is affecting the team’s cohesion, he said, “Early on in the season, you’re looking for a rhythm. You’re looking for familiarity between your players. You are looking to establish a style which can be successful. Until you get three to four games under your belt, you are searching a little bit. I think the time on the pitch is the most important thing. It’s only after you get a response from the actual games, that you can try and establish a pattern.”
Chennaiyin FC and ATK, being past champions are both struggling so far this season. He was asked on whether there’s any surprise on them being in the bottom half of the table and answered, “To be fair, it’s so early in the season that it won’t matter. The tables don’t really mean anything until you get to six games. After getting to six games, you see a definite order. Before getting to six games, it could just be coincidence or how the fixtures have shaped up. But after six, you can see which team will rise and which teams will struggle. Until then, a run of results can be a coincidence.”
On being asked why Everton Santos is being played at center-midfield, he said, “If you look at Everton’s career, he’s played right-wing, left-wing, striker and midfield. He plays a number of positions. I just feel his desire to get forward is important from midfield positions. Although he is a fit man and can do his defensive work, he can show real desire to go forward and get into a goal-scoring situation. That’s the reason why I’ve put him there. He’s an extremely flexible player.”
Syed Sabir Pasha (Chennaiyin FC)
The assistant gaffer predicted that his side are going to improve after a poor start
Syed Sabir Pasha, the assistant coach of Chennaiyin FC attended the pre-match press conference, instead of John Gregory. Speaking on the Englishman’s absence, he said, “Unfortunately John couldn’t be here because of a sore throat. He’s in Delhi right now. He’ll be travelling today or tomorrow. He’s in touch with the club and is talking with the staff and players. He’s mentally here, but can’t be here physically. He’ll be there on the field tomorrow.”
When asked about the lack of improvement in Chennaiyin so far, he said, “We’ve played four matches and we can see the cream of Chennaiyin FC being played. There are some new faces on the team. It’s an early phase. On the field, I think we’re doing good. Day by day, the performance-level is improving. We’re working on our mistakes but I think we’re getting better.”
Pasha had some kind words for ATK, lauding the fellow past champion side. He said, “ATK is a champion side. There is no doubt that there’s a mutual respect between us. ATK is always strong, especially at home. They will never want to lose tomorrow. They play really hard, put the opponent under pressure. They are a very good side, who can’t be taken lightly at any point in time.”
Chennaiyin FC’s assistant coach is hoping they can mount a comeback like they did a few years ago. When asked about Chennaiyin’s top-four finish, he said, “We are trying for a top-four finish. We want to win the finals. It’s a long way to for the playoffs. You could have seen what happened to Chennayin FC two years back. Everyone had written off Chennaiyin FC but we came back and won the whole thing.”
When quizzed on how crucial this game is to save Chennaiyin’s season, “Every match is crucial for us. We need a win for our confidence and for our setup. Each and every match in ISL is a really big fight. Every team is very good and nobody is bad. We have to go match by and match and I think we’ll do it.”
“There are some new faces in our team, but I think we have been doing good. You could see against Bengaluru and Delhi to see how we’ve played. There are many improvements to be made and John is thinking about that. Things are falling in line for Chennaiyin FC and think we’re going to improve.”, he added.
Finally, Pasha was asked on the kind of pressure on his side because of their poor start. He said, “If John would’ve been there, he would have said that the pressure is on him. The pressure is what comes to the coach and not to the players. They go onto the field, and enjoy the game. We tell them to go enjoy the game and not to take the pressure, which is taken in by the coaches.”
ATK will be missing Prabir Das, Arnab Mondal, Sheikh Faiaz who are still sidelined with injuries. Andre Bikey and Kalu Uche are both fit and could feature in the game.
Chennaiyin FC have no injury problems right now. Pasha noted that a full squad is available for the game against ATK.
ATK: Arindam, Khongjee, Johnson, Gerson, Ricky, Santos, Halder, Thatal, Lanzarote, Balwant, Uche.
Chennaiyin FC: Karanjit, Calderon, Sabia, Mailson, Jerry, Thapa, Isaac, Nelson, Augusto, Fernandes, Jeje.
Did You Know?
- ATK have been unable to defeat Chennaiyin FC in their last four meetings. The last time the Kolkata side defeated the defending champions was back in 2015 at their home leg of the ISL 2 playoffs.
- With three losses and a draw, this has been Chennaiyin FC’s worst season to an ISL season in their history. They lost their first two matches in 2015 and went onto come-back and win the ISL title that season.
- ATK have conceded three goals so far this season from headers alone. They’ve also conceded three goals from set-pieces and looked disorganized on corners and free-kicks.
The match will take place on Friday at 7:30 PM at the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata. On television, the match will be live on Star Sports. Meanwhile, it will also be streamed on Hotstar and Jio TV.