Kolkata: It was tipped to be a blockbuster clash when ATK and Kerala Blasters last squared off in the Indian Super League, but strangely ever since that goalless stalemate that incidently kicked off the fourth edition of the ISL, both there teams have gone wayward from being virtual title contenders to one fighting for a final play-offs berth.
While Kerala still stand with a glimmer of hope after accumulating 20 from 14 games, ATK after playing a game less have accumulated only 12.
However ironically interim head-coach Ashley Westwood feels that his side that won the title last season and twice in three years still stand a fighting chance. “If we can get to 27 points. There is little bit (of) hope,” he said ahead of the match against the Blasters here on Thursday.
But that six of the 10 teams have already breached the 20+ mark and Bengaluru on top are on 30 points while Goa on fifth have played just 12 games, instills that perhaps not just fighting but only a miracle may carry ATK to the semi-finals.
That will however have to happen without Robbie Keane, who has been ruled out with a groin injury as well as wingers David Cotterill and Zequinha both of who are suffering from long term injuries.
“We have had 40-43 injuries this term which is incredible,” said Westwood who believes that injuries, more than bad performances have hampered their season. So much that his players are now left to play for contracts and pride rather than the trophy.
“The players need to get contracts to stay in the league or the club. They (ATK players) have to show good endeavour and desire otherwise they might find themselves out of the ISL next season,” said the former Penang FC coach.
ATK also have had the worst goal-scoring record this season, which is just three more than Kerala’s Iain Hume who has netted five but will miss this fixture owing to an injury. So will be club captain Sandesh Jhingan who is suspended after accumulating four yellows.
“But we dominated Bengaluru, who are leading the table and if we play like we did against Bengaluru FC then we have a good chance against Kerala (Blasters),” concluded Westwood.