Football

Injury-scarred ATK meets in-form FC Goa

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A battle-scared Atletico de Kolkata will have to contend with wavering form and a roster of injuries and suspension when it seeks to challenge the increasingly formidable FC Goa at home in the first leg of the Indian Super League semifinals at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.

A dipping performance graph, which shows a series of seven draws — far outnumbering the four wins in the 14 rounds of the league — seems to bother the city-based outfit’s Spanish coach Antonio Habas ahead of the semifinal.

The team management mulled over the diminishing options brought about by injuries to regulars like Ethiopian striker Fikru Lemessa, midfielders Jofre Mateu (Spain) and Ofentse Nato (Botswana) who either missed practice or was absent at the drills.

Defenders Arnab Mondal and Biswajit Saha are also nursing injuries while midfielder Baljit Sahni is suspended, having collected four bookings.

On the statistical part, the factor favouring ATK is its unbeaten record against the visitors. The first match was a comeback 2-1 win, and another comeback 1-1 draw in the second.

“We have a big squad and will play only the best players who are fit. I don’t want to talk about injuries right now,” said a worried looking Habas.

“We’ve worked hard to reach the semifinals, and would like to carry the momentum for a successful ending,” said ATK’s marquee player Luis Garcia.

FC Goa has adeptly used the presence of former Brazilian superstar and coach Zico to make a spectacular turnaround after a dithering start in the league.

The team showed its prowess and organisation despite resting a handful of key players in the last outing at the same venue.

Zico severely criticised the artificial turf at the venue saying it is “not conducive to playing good football, and Kolkata will have the advantage at home as they have played seven matches here.”

While the nature of the turf remains an area of concern for the visitors, the absence of defender Bruno Pinheiro, who was red-carded in the previous match, is another area of worry.

The rest of the side remains intact, with Andre Santos (Brazil), Miroslav Slepicka (Czech Republic), Edgar Marcelino (Portugal) and French World Cupper Robert Pires lending muscle to the side.

Indians like Romeo Fernandes, Sheikh Jewel Raja and Alwyn George also give Zico the options to plot his team’s first win against the host.

“It is a semifinal, and two of the strongest teams are playing. It will be important for us to maintain consistency for 180 minutes and play equally well in both matches,” said Zico.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 1:15:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/indian-super-league-2014-atletico-de-kolkata-versus-fc-goa/article6689645.ece

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