ISL Preview: ATK hot favourites against lacklustre FC Goa
Kolkata, Oct 15 (IANS) Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) will look to log full points despite the likely absence of marquee player Helder Postiga and cente-back Tiri when they take on under-performing FC Goa in an Indian Super League (ISL) face-off here on Sunday.
Postiga, who could play just 74 minutes in ATK’s opening game against Chennaiyin FC last year before pulling a hamstring and missing the rest of the campaign, injured his rib in only the second tie this season against Kerala Blasters.
The Portuguese marksman missed the city-based side’s 1-1 draw away to Mumbai City FC and is a doubtful starter against Goa at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium as well.
In training ahead of the tie, Postiga was seen warming up for a short while before being relegated to the bench.
Tiri has struggled to recuperate from an injury he picked up in the last game, and is likely to be replaced by new ATK recruit, Portuguese Henrique Sereno, who is also a central defender. Sereno, who had played for Portugal in 2013, came in place of Pablo Gallardo, who is out of the reckoning due to injury.
But against an undercooked Goa, who have lost all three of their matches so far, the home side are expected to sail smoothly after a par start with two draws and a win keeping them in third position.
With Canadian striker Iain Hume still to find his feet, the former champions have been largely indebted to Spanish winger Javi Lara, who has been in scintillating form, scoring two crucial goals against Mumbai and Kerala.
Goa, on the other hand, have been dogged by off-field problems in the lead up to ISL-3 which has affected their preparations.
The finalists of the 2015 ISL lacked firepower in all their matches but can breathe a little easy after all their injured players were declared fit.
Robin Singh, Gregory Arnolin and Denzil Franco are all ready to play on Sunday, their media manager confirmed.
Goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani — who inspired Goa to the final in 2015 — has been shoddy under the bar, especially against NorthEast United FC in their opening game.
“After all the problems that happened after last season, we lost key players we wanted to retain like (Jonatan) Lucca, Pronay (Halder), (Thongkhosiem) Hoakip, who got better offers. But we have to play with the best we have,” FC Goa head coach Zico had said after their latest defeat to champions Chennaiyin FC.
The 63-year old Brazilian legend, who did not even get to choose his entire squad, is not left with too much to chop and change from and is expected to field a similar line-up.
One good news for the visitors is the replacement of Arnolin. Brazilian Rafael Dumas has impressed at centre-back.
Coming to the hosts, coach Jose Molina will be expected to field a similar team to the last match with Juan Belencoso playing up front in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
South African winger Sameehg Doutie and Lara will be deployed on the flanks with Hume playing in his preferred withdrawn striker’s role. What remains to be seen is whether the coach gambles with Abhinas Ruidas whose introduction at half time in the last match injected pace and opened up play.
FC Goa, for the record, have failed to beat ATK on all five occasions the two teams have met so far, including the 2014 semifinal where they lost on penalties.