Powerhouses ATK, Bengaluru in search of Christmas gift

Bengaluru FC duo Udanta Singh and Harmanjot Khabra going through the paces ahead of their Hero ISL tie against ATK on Wednesday. Photo by: Arjun Singh / SPORTZPICS for ISLBengaluru FC duo Udanta Singh and Harmanjot Khabra going through the paces ahead of their Hero ISL tie against ATK on Wednesday. Photo by: Arjun Singh / SPORTZPICS for ISL

KOLKATA: ATK will look to make their strong home form count when they take on defending champions Bengaluru FC in a Hero Indian Super League tie at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Wednesday.

With the league at the half-way stage, this battle between two teams in the top four promises a lot of action.

Antonio Habas’ ATK will hope to utilise their strong home form to their advantage against a tough Bengaluru outfit.

The Kolkata-based side are the only team to remain unbeaten at home this season and have scored the most goals at home (10). To top it all, Habas’ side have been exemplary in defence at home, conceding just the three goals – joint-highest in ISL. And they have faced just five shots on target at home this season.

However, their record will be put to test against Carles Cuadrat’s Bengaluru FC who are unbeaten away from home this season.

“We have to compare them (Bengaluru) as the best team this season. For us it’s a very important match. We can know our level by playing against last season’s champions. It’s very important for me and my players,” said Habas.

With eight goals for the season, Roy Krishna is ATK’s primary weapon up front and he has hit a purple patch of late with five of his eight goals coming in the last four matches. With a supporting cast that features the likes of David Williams, Javi Hernandez, Mandi Sosa and Edu Garcia, Krishna will be confident of getting good service.

Bengaluru have a great record over ATK, having won all four games against them so far. In fact, ATK have scored just one goal past Bengaluru in those matches.

Bengaluru’s defence has been exemplary this season as well, having conceded just five goals in nine matches. They have six clean sheets to boot. The battle between a free-scoring ATK attack and a tight Bengaluru defence will play a key role in shaping the course of the match.

In many ways, Bengaluru’s defence has been the saving grace for their struggling attack. Though they have scored just 11 goals in the ISL this season (fifth fewest), Bengaluru have the third-best goal difference in the league (+6).

Apart from Sunil Chhetri, rest of the attackers have flattered to deceive, and Bengaluru have seen their output upfront decline from the previous seasons.

Despite featuring pacy wingers in Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan, Bengaluru have struggled to convert crosses. Despite having put in more than 100 crosses, they have scored just one goal from them.

Bengaluru are placed second on the table (16 points) and Cuadrat will count on his team’s tactical discipline to pull them through against an incisive ATK side and regain the top spot.

“Of course, we have a plan for the game. We’ll try to get them under control. They have two very natural forward players (Krishna and Williams). I think it’s very clever from ATK to bring players who are playing together,” said Cuadrat.

ATK who are a point behind the Blues will be smarting after a loss to FC Goa and a disappointing 2-2 draw against bottom-placed Hyderabad FC. Habas will be desperate to return to winning ways.

For Cuadrat, it’s about the celebrations this festive season. “I hope it’s a special day as it’s Christmas day and we hope to give a present to all the football fans in India (with a win),” he said.