Only two playoff spots are up for grabs and ATK Mohun Bagan will be eager to seal one this weekend as they take on Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium here on Saturday.
ATKMB need three points from their remaining two games to confirm qualification, and will be looking to escape the pressure of a scrap in the final Matchweek with FC Goa and Odisha FC both within touching distance of them on the table.
Earlier this week, ATKMB failed to register a win for a third consecutive game for the first time this season. The Mariners were on the verge of clinching a point against Hyderabad FC after what would have been a second successive goalless draw for them, but a late Bartholomew Ogbeche goal denied them.
Head coach Juan Ferrando has been managing his recent weeks without two key players, Hugo Boumous and Ashique Kuruniyan. The duo was absent from the matchday squad yet again last week. In Boumous’ absence, Federico Gallego has started the previous three games but has yet to make his first goal contribution.
“This team needs to show character and it is a strong team. The recent results have been disappointing, but difficult situations provide the best moments to work on a plan for the future,” said Ferrando as quoted by an ISL press release.
“We have to work together, follow the plan and forget about the previous results. That is what is best for the team. Everyone at the club wants to win the last two matches,” he added.
Ferrando’s former team, FC Goa, were beaten by Chennaiyin FC on Thursday and that outcome confirmed Kerala Blasters’s playoff qualification. As a result, a massive weight will be off the Blasters’ shoulders ahead of this crunch encounter. However, they still need four points to confirm a third-place finish.
They will also be looking to remedy their away form before the playoffs, having lost five of their nine games on the road so far. Four of those have come in their last five outings. The Blasters are yet to win an away game in the new year, with their last one coming in Jamshedpur in December. To make matters worse, head coach Ivan Vukomanovic will be without the suspended Adrian Luna in the match against ATK Mohun Bagan.
“When you start a season, you know that all your players are at risk of being suspended at some point during the season. Even last season, we were without Luna for two or three games, so it happens in football,” said Vukomanovic.
“We always have enough quality players who can jump into the lineup so that is not a problem,” he added.
The two sides have met five times in the ISL, and the Blasters are yet to win a game in this fixture. ATKMB has won on four occasions, including their 5-2 win earlier this season. (ANI)