ISL 2017-18: Robbie Keane-led ATK host NorthEast United in bid to avoid wooden spoon

Kolkata: Two-time champions ATK will clash against NorthEast United in their final match in a battle to avoid a last-place finish for both sides in the Indian Super League on Sunday.

It has been a disappointing season for ATK in more ways than one. They not only failed to make it to the semi-finals but also found themselves battling to avoid a last-place finish.

ATK, with 13 points in their kitty, will finish below NorthEast United (11 points) at the bottom if they lose their last league match at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

Jayesh Rane of ATK in action during match 45 of the Hero Indian Super League between NorthEast United FC and ATK held at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati India on the 12th January 2018 Photo by: Arjun Singh / ISL / SPORTZPICS

ATK had beaten NorthEast United 1-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this season. ISL

Much was expected of ATK at the start of the season. But they struggled from the start and despite a change of coach midway through, finding wins has proved to be a tough ask.

ATK have won only three games this season and have suffered defeat in their last three games.

Their 5-1 drubbing at the hands FC Goa proved too much for interim coach Ashley Westwood, who decided to step down from his responsibilities as the head coach. Robbie Keane has now stepped in as player-manager for the final game against NorthEast United.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, the former Tottenham striker told reporters that even though he was only informed about his new responsibility at the club on Friday, he is still prepared for the challenge at hand.

"I got a phone call on Friday and said in the circumstances can you take the responsibility. I was, of course, happy about it. We've prepared these last few days to our best ability and we're looking forward to tomorrow's game," he said.

"I'm very relaxed and confident in this position. I have to organise a few things with the coaching staff in the last couple of days. I've been captain of various clubs. I was the national captain for many years. So I have almost always had that responsibility," said Keane, who missed a number of games this season due to injury.

Keane also said that despite having failed to make an impression, he and his team will give their best in the game tomorrow to finish the season on a winning note.

"I'm focussed on the game as player-manager and the players have also responded well to me. My responsibility is to organize the team for this game, and honestly, all I'm concentrating on is that," he said.

Ahead of the clash, ATK can take some heart from the fact that the NorthEast have been in terrible form themselves. Avram Grant's men have lost five back-to-back games, although the coach believes the results have not matched his team's performance.

"We have to give our best no matter what the circumstances. We have played well in some of the games but we have failed to pick up the right results. I think when you are losing with one goal in games we are playing well, we need to check ourselves," Grant said.

Published Date: Mar 04, 2018 14:42 PM | Updated Date: Mar 04, 2018 14:42 PM

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