Kolkata: Defending champions ATK will have their task cut out when they meet a strong FC Pune City in the Indian Super League (ISL) season four clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Sunday. With injuries to key players compounded with lack of practice at the venue will make ATK Coach Teddy Sheringham’s job a little tough.
According to the Sheringham, “They (FC Pune City) are a very dangerous outfit. In spite of losing their opening encounter they were very dangerous in parts. They have some exceptional players and we have to be on our guard. The game could go either way. We have to be top form to win. We have to go about it in a right way.”
He added, “We need to win our home games. It will make away games easier if we win at home. That always works in leagues. We are here to impress our fans. We would love to have a full house tomorrow. That’s the passion of ATK fans I have heard about.”
The revamped Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, which recently hosted 11 matches of the FIFA U-17 World Cup including the final on October 28 between England and Spain, will be hosting the first ISL match.
Talking about the pitch, the former Manchester United footballer said, “The more you play on the pitch the more you get to understand that. It should be an advantage but it’s a first time for lot of us. The first few games would seem like neutral for everybody. But the more we play; we would look to make it our fortress”
The two time ISL champions will be without their marquee footballer Robbie Keane and Carl Becker. The former Tottenham Hotspur footballer also missed ATK’s opener against Kerala Blasters in Kochi. The reigning champions were held to a goalless draw.
“We are looking forward to Robbie Keane coming back. He has taken an injection in his achilees. Things have progressed well and he is on hiw way back as we speak which will give everyone a big lift. He is certainly not playing tomorrow. Maybe, with progress (he will play) next week or the week after,” said Sheringham in the pre-match conference in Kolkata.
Ashutosh Mehta, Jayesh Rane and Anwar Ali will also not feature in the playing XI for the home team owing to injuries.
FC Pune City is also plagued with injuries. Midfielder Jewel Raja had to be replaced in the match against Dynamos. The side coached by Popovic gave a good account of themselves, as they came back from being 3-0 down by 65 minutes against Delhi Dynamos to net two goals.
The visitors will have to work on their defence which looked to have gone off to sleep when Delhi scored the first two goals.
Talking about his defence, Popovic said, “The mistakes in defence were individual and not tactical. These things do happen. We don’t like to put finger on someone. I am taking the responsibility for the guys.”
Pune will be pinning their hopes on Marcelinho to score tomorrow. The Brazilian finished as the top scorer last season with 10 goals.
In the last four meetings of the two sides, Pune have won twice with ATK winning at home in 2015. Their last meeting ended in a goalless draw on December 2 last year.