Kolkata, Feb 7: Staring down the barrel after four consecutive defeats, defending champions ATK will look to get their house in order when they take on Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League (ISL) clash here on Thursday.
ATK have been in dismal form since beating NorthEast United in Guwahati a little less than a month ago. The hosts lost to FC Pune City (0-3), Chennaiyin FC (1-2), Jamshedpur FC (0-1) and Bengaluru FC (0-2) affecting their chances of making the playoffs sitting at a lowly eighth position in the points table.
With just 12 points to show from 13 matches, ATK will have to win almost all their last five games and also hope that teams in the top four drop points.
Injuries to key players has played a big part in derailing their campaign and the string of poor results also led to the sacking of high-profile head coach Teddy Sheringham of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur fame.
In the last game against high-flying table toppers Bengaluru at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, ATK were abysmal at the back as Jordi Montel’s early own goal summed up their plight.
“We have to keep working,” interim coach Ashley Westwood had said after the match, wanting to look at the positives.
“I have a little bit of confidence. Yes, it was defeat, but I don’t think anybody that watched the game thought we deserved to lose. We created some good chances, which we obviously did not convert. Robbie Keane comes on and gets three shot off in the space of 35-40 minutes. So, we got some encouraging performances,” the Englishman added.
When asked about the motivating factor that would keep the club going for the next few matches, the 41-year-old replied, “To win. To play for contracts. To play to stay at the club. The contracts of all these boys are up. Nobody is on a multi-contract apart from Prabir (Das) and Debjit (Majumder). So, in my eyes, the five games are to stay at the club.”
For ATK, their talisman Robbie Keane finally got some game-time, coming on in the second half and making an impact straight away.
Kerala, on the other hand, are coming into the tie on the back of two wins against Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City respectively.
In the last game, head coach and former England goalkeeper David James had said they played one of the best matches he has ever seen.
Kerala grabbed a dramatic last-gasp winner to beat Pune 2-1 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune last Friday.
After Jackichand Singh had given the two-time finalists the lead, Emilano Alfaro equalised from the spot. However, local boy CK Vineeth bagged the winner deep into injury time to hand all three points to the Kochi-based outfit. The win took them to fifth position in the points table.
“When I watched the videos, I didn’t think it looked as vicious as it appeared,” Kerala coach David James said.
“It’s the nature of the game. Both teams needed the win, and for the players it was difficult to keep control and unfortunately, we got a lot of bookings. But it happens in football. But I got to credit my players for not losing their cool.”