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ISL Final: Atletico de Kolkata's injuries could work to Kerala Blasters' advantage

ISL Final: Atletico de Kolkata's injuries could work to Kerala Blasters' advantage

After a season full of hype, excitement and in the end success, Kerala and Kolkata will be up against each other to inscribe their names in history.

Subhasish Dutta
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Mumbai: The inaugural edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) is now down to just one game, the all important final here on Saturday.

After a season full of hype, excitement and in the end success, which saw the world take notice of Indian football's renaissance, Kerala Blasters FC and Atletico de Kolkata will be up against each other to inscribe their names in history.

Both the teams had a roller-coaster journey to the final to be played in Navi Mumbai's DY Patil Stadium. But before the title ash, Kolkata find themselves grappling with injury woes.

Their skillful striker Fikru Teferra Lemessa has been ruled out of the marquee clash with a hamstring injury. The 28-year-old sustained a the injury in the last league game against FC Goa where he scored the winner and decisive penalty, which propelled Sourav Ganguly co-owned team into the semi-finals.

Fikru, who has a grade 1 tear in his hamstring, would return to South Africa for further treatment, the ISL franchise said in a statement on Saturday.

The Ethiopian became household name in India when he scored the first goal of the tournament in the opening match against Mumbai City FC in front of a packed Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.

He has scored five goals in ISL and is the top scorer for the side. The striker, who is also not new to controversies, was suspended for two matches following an alleged misconduct in the game against FC Goa in the league stage, after which Kolkata's fortunes swung like a pendulum.

The absence of Fikru has left the club much to ponder ahead of the finale as his strength and muscle power will surely be missed against Kerala.

The side's Spanish coach has faced an uphill battle all through the season due to a host of injuries ruling out few of his best players. And in his absence, Habas will again have to head to the drawing board to maintain numbers in the attack which can penetrate the solid Kerala defence and he might continue to opt for Mohammed Rafi upfront.

Well, Fikru's injury may not be the only worrying factor for Habas & Co. Besides the former Ethiopian national team captain, the club's captain Luis Garcia may not have fully recovered from a hamstring injury he suffered earlier.

The 36-year-old Spaniard, who has plied his trade for giants like Barcelona and Liverpool, was substituted mid way in Kolkata's second-leg semi-final against FC Goa, which robbed the team of its attacking powers.

But the return of striker Cavin Lobo and Spanish midfielder Jofre Mateu Gonzalez would certainly boost the side.

Going into the finals, Sachin Tendulkar's Kerala Blasters might have a slight edge with a consistent Iain Hume, promising CS Sabeeth and Nigerian Penn Orji providing them the extra thrust in the attack. But in a pressure-cooker face-off for the trophy, it will be foolish for each team to take the other lightly.

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