ISL: ATK seek elusive win against North East United
Kolkata: The standings may show them at the top but it is not all that rosy for Atletico de Kolkata and they would be aiming to end a four-match winless streak when they take on North East United FC in their return leg ISL fixture here tomorrow.
Having started off with a bang that saw them occupy the pole position, ATK have started misfiring in the last couple of matches, picking their first loss of the season, a humiliating 1-3 defeat at home to Pune City FC.
To compound their misery, ATK's Indian defender Cavin Lobo, who struck a stunning brace in Goa, has been ruled out because of a ligament tear and has been asked for a month's rest.
In such a scenario, Fikru Teferra is their only striking option but the mercurial Ethiopian, who was instrumental in their fiery start, has been struggling of late.
Fikru had missed an open net in the goalless draw against Chennaiyin FC and coach Antonio Habas would find it tough to bring the team back to winning ways.
The defence, which was compact to start with, has also started crumbling following Denzil Franco's injury as his replacement Kingshuk Debnath has come a cropper.
Debnath's bloomer cost the team in Chennai when his foul helped their opponents score in the dying minutes to salvage a draw.
In another setback, ATK midfielder Mohammed Rafique may not be available as he has been shown the door for not attending the training session here yesterday.
Their Liverpool star Luis Garcia, who had a hamstring injury and missed two matches, has repeatedly spoken about the perils of playing on the artificial turf of the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
It is something that has derailed the recovery of Garcia who is not able to give his best.
In NEUFC, they have a strong opposition and a side, which will be keen to return to winning ways after an identical four-match winless streak including three draws and one loss.
Incidentally, ATK's second of the three wins came against the same side when they had a spirited 2-0 away win but those were early days as NEUFC have settled down.
With Spanish World Cupper Joan Capdevilla holding their backline, they have one of the best defence along with Kerala Blasters FC and both the teams have conceded the least number of goals (six) in the eight-team league.
It's the striking half which poses a concern as Koke missed a brilliant chance in the last match to settle for a goalless draw at home as they have slumped to sixth position in the table.
They will depend largely on the Spanish forward Sergio Contreras Pardo, popularly known as Koke, if they too have to return to winning ways.