We are in for another thriller in the Indian Super League (ISL) as two big teams will battle it out in the first leg of the second semi-final. It’s a clash of two styles as an injury-marred Atletico de Kolkata host an in-form FC Goa at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
Contrasting journey in ISL
It has been a contrasting journey for Atletico de Kolkata and FC Goa as they lock horns on Sunday. While the Saurav Ganguly-owned Atletico began in great form, they lost their momentum midway through the league and have been able to manage just one win in their last ten matches.
In contrast, FC Goa are high on confidence. They were able to seal their semi-final berth a game in advance inspite of a slow start to their campaign that saw them endure three losses and a draw in the first four matches. Zico’s men have made a turnaround in magnificent fashion, leaving other teams trailing in their wake.
The first meeting between Atletico de Kolkata and FC Goa was a fiery affair with the Kolkata franchise edging past FC Goa 2-1. In a more recent meeting , last Wednesday, Kolkata salvaged a 1-1 draw. The draw helped Kolkata hold on to the 4th place and qualify for the semis.
Atletico de Kolkata
Injuries might have a telling effect on the outcome of tonight’s big semi-final clash. Atletico’s lack of form is further compounded by many of its key players suffering from injuries. The team which has so far been dependent on a single striker is racing against time to get Fikru Teferra Lemessa fit. The Ethiopian who has played a crucial role in Atletico de Kolkata’s three wins is suffering from a hamstring injury and has looked doubtful till now.
Other key players are also giving coach Antonio Lopez Habas a headache. Midfielder Jofre Mateu is another injury casualty. The Spaniard is yet to completely recover from an ankle injury. Defenders Arnab Mondal and Biswajit Saha too are a cause of worry because of their injuries.
ATK Need To Bolster Offense
Antonio Lopez Habas’s decision to play one striker has come under a lot of criticism especially after the team’s last few matches which did not go as expected. With so many players injured, Lopez Habas will have to do a major rethink about the line-up. In their last game inspite of playing against a Goa team that was resting some of its players second-string team, Atletico went down a goal in the first half in their last encounter. Perhaps bolstering the attacking line-up will pay off for today’s high-voltage match.
Despite having a flurry of chances in each of their last few matches, the Sourav Ganguly-owned side failed to show their magic touch. Poor finishing had plagued the team in recent times which has contributed to the fall from grace for the Kolkata team.
Striker Cavin Lobo is aiming for a return in the XI. Arnal Llibert is also likely to be included if at all Fikru misses the bus. If Fikru can get fit on time, his presence can have a major impact on the Goan defence. Luis Garcia will be expected to initiate the attacks and his through-balls can take the opposition by surprise.
The high-flying FC Goa have had more positives towards the end of the league. After a poor start, the coastal kings have turned things around in majestic fashion. They look confident, well-bonded and their attacking unit has that sharpness to look for scoring opportunities. Even their last match versus Atletico de Kolkata gave a hint of how Zico’s men are not taking things lightly.
FC Goa’s ruthless domination in the second half of the league has been noteworthy. Zico’s attacking strategy has helped the team remain unbeaten in their last eight matches. The striking trio of Romeo Fernandes, Miroslav Slepička and Andre dos Santos have been effective and have troubled the defence of each team that has featured in the league.
Afghan Midfielder Zohib Amiri will be starting the game after a string of impressive performances. He is the connecting link between the strikers and the midfielders. In the defence though, Bruno Pinheiro will miss out on both the semi-final games as he was unfairly red carded in his last meeting against Atletico.
The absence of the Portuguese defender Bruno Pinheiro will force Zico to reorganise the back-line. The artificial turf at the Salt Lake Stadium too has not been upto the Brazilian’s liking. He has called the turf ‘bad for football’ which clearly shows his grievance. The raucous crowd support for the home team might be a factor too in such high-voltage clashes.
Prediction: A mouthwatering football feast lies in wait on Sunday evening. Atletico de Kolkata has the crowd behind them but FC Goa has been thoroughly dominant in their last few matches against every opposition. It is more sensible to think that the trend will continue today.
Atletico de Kolkata – Road to the Semi-final
FC Goa – Road to the Semi-final
FC Goa 1-1 NorthEast United
FC Goa 2-1 Delhi Dynamos
FC Goa 0-0 Mumbai City FC