Kolkata, Oct 28 (IANS) Plagued by injury blues and back-to-back losses, defending champions Atletico de Kolkata face formidable challengers Delhi Dynamos in an Indian Super League (ISL) encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Thursday.
The defending champions will miss their most trusted defender, Spaniard Josemi who is recovering from a left-knee injury. ATK had a bright start to the tournament beating Chennayin FC (3-2) and the Kerala Blasters (2-1).
They also managed to eke out a draw with FC Goa (1-1) but then surrendered to FC Pune City (0-1) and NorthEast United (0-1) in consecutive away matches. ATK’s back-to-back defeats are a first in the ISL’s brief history. On the other hand, the Dynamos have had a topsy-turvy journey in their last few games.
With nine points in their bag from five outings, a win here will see them propel to the top of the leaderboard. However, they had lost their previous tie against Mumbai City FC (0-2) and coming into a stadium with 65,000 vociferous fans cheering for the rival team might be a little unnerving. But then again it is a star-studded line up which has former Champions League winners in John Arne Riise and Florent Malouda and a former World Cup holder in the form of Roberto Carlos.
Delhi have a strong attack with Indian striker Robin Singh and Brazilian midfielder Gustavo Marmentini dos Santos forming an effective combination upfront. ATK manager Habas will have to dig deep into his reserves to pull out forwards who can give the Delhi defence a run for their money.
Marquee player Helder Postiga is still nursing an injury, while Arata Izumi’s availability is still an uncertainty. In that case the Spanish coach may use Baljit Sahni as a striker or have Canadian Iain Hume slip into the shoes of a marksman.
Habas would know what his side’s weaknesses are and would plan his strategy accordingly. ATK has fielded a defensive formation so far this season and Habas might decide to continue the trend against Delhi.
It will be up to the Dynamos to try and break the shackles. But in doing so if they don’t plug the gaps in Defence, the likes of Spanish midfielder Javi Lara and Hume would be more than happy to make the visitors pay.