Atletico de Kolkata boast of one of the most heavily rotated squads among all the clubs in the third edition of the Indian Super League. With as many as twenty three players used by Jose Molina over the course of the competition, the Kolkata club has a number of options who could step up to the plate.
In an evenly-matched final as the one expected to occur at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday, a moment of individual brilliance could settle the scoreline and Atletico have no dearth of game-changers in their ranks. Here are some of the ATK players to watch out for in the finale:
With four goals in six knock-out matches in the three seasons of the Indian Super League, Iain Hume is a veteran of the knock-outs and would look to avoid the bitter taste of defeat in the finals. The Canadian forward, who once compared goals to “London buses”, has not been a prolific scorer this season but did get on the scoresheet whenever it counted, most notably against the Mumbai City FC in the home leg of the semifinals.
Known for his boundless work-rate and movement in between the channels, Hume has forged an intriguing partnership with marquee signing Helder Postiga – their combined skillset playing a crucial role in Jose Molina’s tactical setup. Equally comfortable playing off the shoulder of the last defender as well as finding pockets of space on the wide channels, Hume’s instinct and eye for the goal provides Atletico a cutting edge.
The Antonio Habas recruit has been in and out of the Atletico side this season, playing just 816 minutes so far, mostly due to injury concerns. However, there is no doubting the incredible talent this 27-year-old possesses.
With his pace and dribbling ability, Doutie can take on any fullback on his day and the South African winger’s tendency to perfectly time his runs behind the opposition defence has been utilised by Molina time and again. Doutie has scored just two goals in sixteen appearances, but it is his overall attacking play which makes the difference.
In Atletico’s season opener, Doutie won the crucial penalty which helped Atletico equalise and against FC Goa, it was Doutie’s substitution which turned the game into ATK’s favour through some excellent counter-attacking football. During the first leg of Atletico’s semifinals, Doutie not only flummoxed the young Sena Ralte to such an extent that the fullback had to be substituted at half-time, but he also set up both of Iain Hume’s goals – the first through a simple lay-off and the second by linking up play with Helder Postiga.
Doutie will be Atletico’s principal attacking threat against the Kerala Blasters and in light of Jossu Currais’ absence through suspension; the South African could very well walk away with all the plaudits.
The first player to sign for any ISL club, Borja Fernandez is synonymous to Atletico de Kolkata’s footballing ideology. The 35-year-old is indispensable at the heart of the Atletico midfield and for the second time in three seasons, has played the most minutes among any ATK outfield player.
The former Real Madrid midfielder is the key irrespective of whether Atletico choose to play a possession-based game or on the counter. While Borja’s ability to shield his defenders allows the likes of Postiga and Ralte to push forward without the added responsibility of tracking back, his extensive passing array (Borja completed the second most passes in the league) often gets most of Atletico’s attacks started.
In modern football, winning the second ball is crucial should a team wish to control the tempo of the game and the Atletico captain excels in this aspect. Borja’s partnership with Stephen Pearson in the central midfield has provided Atletico with technical diversity as well as tactical stability.
A mid-season replacement for the injured Pablo Gallardo, the former FC Porto defender Henrique Sereno has become an integral part of Jose Molina’s squad. With sixteen tackles in nine appearances, the Portuguese centre-half is a mainstay of the Atletico backline.
While the experienced Tiri is often applauded for his reading of the game, Sereno has slowly but steadily raked up the minutes and put in the yards in a season when Atletico’s premiere defensive duo Tiri and Arnab Mondal have missed games at an alarming rate due to injuries.
Sereno’s direct approach and no-nonsense attitude is an asset for Atletico, in spite of the Portuguese being prone to lapses in concentration. Although the defender has been found wanting on certain occasions (mostly set-piece situations), Atletico tend to defend better when Sereno is on song – Sereno lost the ball in lead up to Mumbai City’s first goal in the semifinals but played an excellent ninety minutes in the second leg, setting the tone of the tie for both clubs.
Updated Date: Dec 18, 2016 12:06:34 IST