Atletico de Kolkata host Kerala Blasters in a repeat of last season’s final

Champions Atletico de Kolkata face Kerala Blasters in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) later today, in a replay of last season’s final, which also coincidentally is the Kolkata outfit’s first home game since becoming the Champions in the opening season. The presence of Brazilian legend Pele is an added attraction to the game as the crowd is expected to pour in to see a glimpse of the Brazilian great.

The last time these two sides had met was in December last year in the final of the league, it was a Mohammad Rafique injury time header that had won ATK the crown then. Nine months later the platform provides just the perfect opportunity for the Blasters to have their revenge.

Both teams had a wonderful first game of the season. ATK beat Chennaiyin FC 3-2, while Kerala stormed past NorthEast United 3-1.

However, each side had to settle for a draw in their respective second outings. The Blasters were held goalless by Mumbai City FC and Atletico played out a 1-1 stalemate against FC Goa.

After the lacklustre performances ideally both teams would want to get back to the winning track and what better way for Goa to do that than by beating the defending champions at home. Reportedly Blasters co-owner Sachin Tendulkar may fly in for the tie.

To log full points, Peter Taylor’s team need to be crisp and precise upfront with their passes and aerial balls. Kerala have the likes of former Arsenal striker Sanchez Watt and Mohammad Rafi upfront to score goals but then again they have to get past the likes of Josemi and Arnab Mondal who have been impressive with their defending.

Going into the contest, ATK does not look that strong a side, especially without the services of Botswana midfielder Ofentse Nato and utility player Baljit Sahni. While Nato is busy doing national duty, Sahni was red carded in the last match.

Moreover, their marquee player Helder Postiga is back in Portugal for treating a hamstring strain sustained during the first match against Chennaiyin FC.

To add to their woes, the outfit also has not got a chance to train on a relaid natural-grass surface at the stadium so the playing surface will be quite alien to them.

But there are players in the ATK squad who are raring to make a name for themselves in the league. However, the likes of Iain Hume and Javi Lara need to step up and deliver if Atletico are to win in front of their home supporters and above all, in front of Pele.

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