Preview: Bengaluru FC have set the standard in the Indian Super League and would want to finish on an unbeaten note before the league takes a break for the Asian Cup as they take on ATK at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Thursday.
Bengaluru are at the top of the league ladder and have a chance to extend their lead.
All eyes will be on John Johnson, who spent five years at Bengaluru FC and Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who was an integral part of the club for three seasons. While the English defender has continued to be a regular for his new side ATK, the same cannot be said for Lyngdoh, who has amassed a mere 23 minutes this season for ATK.
Bengaluru FC, though, haven't been affected by their absence. They have the meanest defence in the league, conceding a mere eight goals with Albert Serran and Juanan forming an able partnership at the back.
"Last season, after 10 games we had 18 points and this season we have 24. We have to be happy. It was a wonderful season last year. We reached the first position, keeping a distance (from the rest).
"We have played five games with Miku and five games without him. In the first five games we got 13 points and the next five, we got 11. He is a very important player but the rest of the guys have been working wonderfully and getting the points," said coach Carles Cuadrat.
In midfield, Harmanjot Khabra will be missing the tie due to suspension which means Cuadrat could either opt to play three foreign midfielders in Erik Paartalu, Xisco Hernandez and Dimas Delgado or possibly hand a chance to Boithang Haokip.
"I am expecting a tough game from ATK. They want to win the points and this is a very important game for them. We are working on the plan for the game," said the Bengaluru coach.
ATK come into the game on the back of a goalless draw in Guwahati. In fact, three of their last four matches have ended in goalless draws. They are the only side to have less than 100 shots in the league so far and only Delhi Dynamos have scored fewer goals in the league than ATK. Against a strong Bengaluru defence, it won't be easy for Coppell's men.
"We try to win every game. We don't think about other options. I don't know how to play for a draw. That will be the philosophy for tomorrow's game," said ATK head coach Steve Coppell.
Steve Coppell's team are difficult to break down as they have defensively strong players in Johnson, Andre Bikey, Gerson Vieira and Pronay Halder. The English coach will once again employ similar tactics against Bengaluru FC as in the reverse fixture in Kolkata which ended 2-1 in favour of the visitors.
"I'm expecting a tough game. They are unbeaten. They are strong defensively and in offence. It' s a challenge for every team to try and beat them and be the first team to do so. It will be a tough game but we will try," said Coppell.
With inputs from IANS
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Updated Date: Dec 13, 2018 21:24:39 IST