Kolkata: Virtually out of the play-offs battle, ATK will hope to salvage some pride when they take on table-toppers Bengaluru FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium here on Saturday.
With just 12 points from the same number of games, ATK are eighth in the table, a dozen points away from the Indian Super League (ISL) debutants. After 12 games Bengaluru stand on 24 points.
Of the five games that they have played at home, the defending champions have managed just one win, three losses while they were held onto a 1-1 draw by FC Goa. But although 10 points distances them from the final play-offs berth currently occupied by Jamshedpur, interim-coach Ashley Westwood believes that ATK still stands a “mathematical” chance to qualify.
“It is still a mathematical possibility. If we win 6 out of 6, I’m sure we’ll be close. So there is definitely motivation in the team. When you are a professional, you have to keep playing and keeping winning points for your team. So tomorrow, we will fire on all cylinder and try to get all three points,” said the Englishman ahead of their match.
But while a win is the need of the moment, another defeat will mean pressure will outburst. “Football requires pressure. There is pressure in every game,” said Westwood, who also added that Robbie Keane has started training but may still miss the game — his fifth, due to injury — it is the same for defender Tom Thorpe. But Ryan Taylor is set to rerun after sitting out against Jamshedpur for the four yellow cards he piled up.
One of the things ATK will have to do to win is score goals. In 12 games that have netted a paltry eight, which is the joint lowest this season. “In the previous years, usually at this stage of the competition, ATK will have more goals,” said Westwood referring to the earlier three fruitful years for the defending champions, that fetched two league titles. But it was during the franchise’s connection with Atletico Madrid and that a lot has happened after ATK chose to go the English way, shows the brain-fade they had, which has become a second nature to the defending champions this season.
As for Bengaluru they are aiming for a third consecutive win, something that has not happened for them so far. “We haven’t won three games in a row. That means we haven’t been the team we are supposed to be. Our first target is to do that, we have to find the right balance,” said head coach Albert Roca.
His side have won twice four times but have never completed a hat-trick of victories. They come to Kolkata with a win over Mumbai City and NorthEast United, which means that a win over ATK will not just help them do the double over the two-time champions after Pune City and Chennaiyin FC, but also consolidate their position in the top four.
“That is the first objective this season,” quipped the former Barcelona assistant. But despite ATK’s unfathomable run, Roca would not take them lightly. “A win tomorrow will take us more closer to our objective. But if we are not winning tomorrow other teams will jump closer.”
But he anticipates nothing less than a win. “Tomorrow is the first test to prove that we alost can win consecutive games on the road,” he signed off.