At the brink of the finish line, the Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 season has one match left. The big one. The final, between ATK and Chennaiyin FC.
The match will be played just a few hours from now at Goa’s popular Fatorda Stadium. Both the finalists have had to trek through an arduous trail to reach to the summit clash. 20 games each is what they had to play. And they walk into the final with an uncanny similarity between their season numbers. While ATK won 11 games, Chennaiyin secured nine victories. ATK drew 4, their opponents five. The Kolkata club forced in 36 goals and Marina Machans scored 38.
Numbers can be deceptive. So they are in this case. ATK and Chennaiyin’s respective road to the final has been quite contrasting. ATK have been one of the most consistent sides of the tournament with qualification for semi-finals coming fairly easily. They also were the favourites, at one stage, for the top spot in the league stage, which was eventually clinched by FC Goa.
On the other hand, Chennaiyin needed some divine intervention to reach the semi-finals. That intervention was provided by Owen Coyle, who replaced fan favourite, John Gregory. Chennaiyin went from zeroes to heroes. After a horrendous start to the season, they were unbeaten in the last seven league games. That winning streak was only broken in the second leg of their semi-final against Goa. However, they had enough goals in the kitty by then — six to five on aggregate — to qualify for the final.
ATK had to battle past defending champions Bengaluru FC to carve their way into the final. After losing the first leg 1-0, ATK registered a 3-1 win at home to book their tickets to Goa.
History in sight
The two teams, with contrasting pathways, are now at crossroads. ATK and Chennaiyin clash in the final for not just the title but a piece of history. Both are two-time champions. Hence, it is a race to complete a hat-trick of titles for the first time in the ISL. In this battle for history, fans are guaranteed utmost entertainment. After all, both ATK and Chennaiyin have been scoring goals for fun this season. Their strengths and weaknesses make for a similar reading and both teams are also at full strength. So if they have to cancel each other, we wish they do so by scoring goals.
Apart from these sides meeting in the final for the first time, there's one more thing new about the summit clash. That will be the lack of a single fan in the stands. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the final will be played behind closed doors. Amidst the gloom of the virus outbreak, the final is also an opportunity for either of the side to put a big smile on the face of their supporters.
ATK lead the race in this department having won six out of 14 matches between these two sides. But with four wins for Chennaiyin, there’s very little that separates these two sides, as is the case before the final.
ATK — 6 wins
Draw — 4
Chennaiyin — 4 wins
Habas’ side definitely has the edge in the head-to-head race but this season, it has been a one-all affair with ATK winning the first match of the season against Chennaiyin, away from home 1-0 with David Williams scoring. ATK though failed to protect their own territory as Coyle’s men registered a comprehensive 3-1 result in Kolkata. The trio of Rafael Crivellaro, Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis scored for Chennaiyin.
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 13, 2020
Payers to watch out for
Roy Krishna-Prabir Das (ATK)
Prabir’s marauding runs in the second leg of their semi-final against Bengaluru would have sure kept Francisco Borges awake for multiple nights. It was a heartening display from an Indian full-back as he made two assists in the comeback match for his team. In total, he has five assists this season, most for a defender. He is expected to be a nuisance once again for Chennaiyin FC, particularly for Jerry Lalrinzuala. And to compliment Prabir upfront is skipper Roy Krishna. With 15 goals so far in his debut season, the Fijian forward is proving to be the best striker of the season. One of the biggest challenges for Coyle would be to get Jerry and Lucian Goian (or Eli Sabia) stop Krishna and Prabir from co-ordinating.
Nerijus Valskis (Chennaiyin)
With 14 goals and six assists, Lituania’s Valskis has been Chennaiyin’s biggest goal threat this season. Coyle needed goals and leadership upfront to turnaround the season and Valskis has both of them in plenty but the striker would know his biggest job is yet to be completed.
Valskis may be the finisher, but Crivellaro is the creator. The engine of the Chennaiyin vehicle. The Brazilian is a dream all-around midfielder to have in your side. His creative instincts are the envy of all, but goalscoring is what makes him so dangerous. He has eight assists to his name, second-most this season, and seven goals.
Arindam Bhattacharya (ATK), Vishal Kaith (Chennaiyin)
Results in big games between evenly matched sides could come down to fine margins like individual errors. Both goalies — Bhattacharya and Kaith — have been erroneous at times. Both would look to put in a clean performance tonight and if required, be the hero on the night.
ATK: Arindam Bhattacharya, Pritam Kotal, John Johnson, Sumit Rathi, Prabir Das, Michael Soosairaj, Michael Regin, Javi Hernandez, Edu Garcia, David Williams Roy Krishna
Chennaiyin FC: Vishal Kaith, Laldinliana Renthlei, Lucian Goian, Eli Sabia, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anirudh Thapa, Edwin Vanspaul, Rafael Crivellaro, Andre Schembri, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Nerijus Valskis
Updated Date: Mar 14, 2020 10:18:40 IST