ISL 2015: Depleted Atletico de Kolkata up for a strong Kerala challenge
Boosted by the presence of the legendary Pele, defending champions Atletico de Kolkata will look to open their home campaign on a winning note when they face Kerala Blasters FC.
Helder Postiga justified his tag of marquee player by netting a brace, as Atletico de Kolkata began their title defence with a 3-2 victory over Chennaiyin FC.
Kolkata: Boosted by the presence of the legendary Pele, defending champions Atletico de Kolkata will look to open their home campaign on a winning note when they face Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament here on Tuesday.
The three-time World Cup winner is on a week's visit to India as he will be the guest of honour at the first home match for ATK who will be missing several of their key players against a team whom they had beaten 1-0 in the last year's final.
Having guided their team to a 3-2 win in Chennai with two dazzling goals in the opening match of the second edition, ATK's marquee player Helder Postiga is back home recovering from an injury.
In his absence, ATK drew 1-1 in Goa in a match where Baljit Sahni was shown the first red card of the season for head-butting rival player Gregory Arnolin.
There was more setback in store as the ATK midfielder from Punjab was handed a two-match ban and fine of Rs 5 lakh, while coach Antonio Lopez Habas was served a warning and fined Rs 50,000 by the All India Football Federation disciplinary committee.
It's a grim reminder to their campaign last season when Fikru Teferra who's now with Chennaiyin FC and Habas was served bans last year as the team with a brand of 'fatafati (fantastic) football' has come under criticism for their over aggressive display.
It's not only Postiga and Baljit who will be missed but Oftense Nato, a Botswana midfielder, the Indian defender duo of Arnab Mondal and Rino Anto will also not be in the team rosters as they're representing their respective countries in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
In absence of the mercurial duo of Postiga and Baljit up front, the onus would be on Canadian forward Iain Hume and Japanese-born Indian Izumi Arata to get past Kerala Blasters FC defence solidly manned by their captain Peter Ramage.
A former Newcastle United centre back was at the helm as they kept a clean-sheet warding off Nicolas Anelka's Mumbai City FC for a draw at home in the last outing.
"We're not disappointed. We have kept a clean sheet and that is something we can build on. We could have played better but Mumbai City came out very determined and played tough.
We've come away with a good point," Ramage said as both ATK and KBFC are same on points tally with an identical one win, one draw from two matches.
KBFC believe in attack something ATK would be wary of without Arnab and Anto in the backline as much workload would be on their central defender Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey popularly known as 'Josemi'.
The visitors have players like former Arsenal striker Sanchez Watt, Barcelona academy product Josue Prieto, Christopher Dagnall, goalkeeper Stephen Bywater and Bruno Perone -- all in imperious form.
Josue struck with a stunning volley against NorthEast United FC before Mohammed Rafi and Sanchez Watt added two more second half goals in their big 3-1 win over NEUFC at home.
ATK may be playing their first home match but the conditions would still be alien for them as they're yet to train at the relaid grass turf of Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan which is getting ready for the next year's U-17 World Cup in 2017.
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