Perched on top of the table, Atletico de Kolkata will look to consolidate the lead when they face a struggling Kerala Blasters FC in a battle of leaders and laggards in the Indian Super League in Kolkata tomorrow.
Kolkata are three points clear of NorthEast United FC in the points table.
More than their performance, the unbeaten Atletico de Kolkata have made headlines for their antics. Coach Antonio Habas and mercurial striker Fikru Teferra are, in fact, facing disciplinary action for their alleged fracas in Goa.
With Fikru set to miss tomorrow’s fixture because of a double booking and uncertainty persisting over former Liverpool star and captain Luis Garcia (hamstring injury), the Kolkata franchise would certainly be under pressure to bring up their first win since their 2-0 blanking of Mumbai City FC in ISL kickoff.
This would certainly give an opportunity for KBFC to notch their maiden win in a contest which is also seen as a battle between two former India teammates and opening partners in Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, the respective co-owners.
While Sachin, who will be going to Sydney for the annual Bradman Foundation Dinner, is set to miss the date, ATK co-owner Sourav would be here and will have the company of another former India batsman VVS Laxman to cheer for the team.
Riding on a stunning second-half brace of Cavin Lobo, ATK secured a 2-1 comeback win against FC Goa in an ill-tempered clash that saw eight yellow cards including one to Kolkata’s goalkeeping coach Deshi Bhaktawer on Diwali night.
Goa have lodged an official protest for Fikru’s alleged headbutt on Goan player Gregory Arnolin and French World Cup winner Robert Pires’ claim that ATK coach Habas punched him near the tunnel at the half-time.
In the likely absence of Garcia and Fikru, Borja Fernandez and Jofre Mateu would be the centre of their attacks and much of their success would depend on the duo’s set pieces.
At the same time, riding high after his match winning performance in front of his ‘home’ crowd in Margao, ATK forward Lobo would look to start in the line-up and take forward the momentum.
The new-found ATK hero Lobo, who was not even part of the 18 in the first three matches, is relishing the challenge.
I really wanted to play in Goa because of my near and dear ones in the stands… I was waiting for my chance and take great pride in those goals, the 26-year-old said.
Looking forward to their match against KBFC, he said, I find myself in good shape and form at this moment. Everyone says there’s pressure in Kolkata but I don’t feel anything. I just close my eyes and ears to everything.
KBFC may have yet to win a tie having played both their matches away but the core of the team has some players who are accustomed to the artificial turf at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
From East Bengal star Mehtab Hossain to Penn Orji to Mohun Bagan forward CS Sabeeth, they all have made their name at this very turf and behind them would be highly successful East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan as an assistant coach.
All these factors would certainly give a ray of hope to KBFC who would look to bring their campaign on track before it’s too late.
The 30-year-old Scottish born Canadian international forward Ian Hume, who has scored the first-ever and only goal for KBFC in their 1-2 loss to Chennaiyin FC, will once again look to lead the front with Sabeeth in the team’s bid for first point.
Recovering from a hamstring injury that has kept him out for about three months, former Newcastle United striker and player of Indian origin Michael Chopra’s absence from the starting line-up has been a big setback for KBFC so far.
Chopra has been used as a substitute against NEUFC and CFC but the 30-year-old believes he would get fitter.
I feel I’m in much better shape at the moment. I’m happy with the way we have created our chances so far. I know I can thrive under pressure, I do like pressure, he said.
Subscribe to our email newsletter.