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ISL: ATKMB look to secure semis spot with win over lowly Odisha


GOA, FEBRUARY 23, 2022

ATK Mohun Bagan will look to rubber-stamp their spot in the top-four with a win over Odisha FC who have nothing to lose, in a Hero Indian Super League clash at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Thursday.

ATKMB are third having 30 points from 16 games, two less than leaders Hyderabad FC who have played a game more and will be in action on Wednesday against Kerala Blasters.

The Mariners dropped points against Kerala in a heated 2-2 draw, snapping a run of three wins on the spin. But Juan Ferrando’s men are on a 12-game unbeaten streak and have looked at their best in recent matches, even with injuries to key players.

Joni Kauko has been one who has stepped up whenever his team has needed him to deliver, and the Finland international scored the last-gasp equaliser in the last game too, underlining his value in the side. Kauko has now been involved in five goals, netting two in the process. Along with Hugo Boumous, Kauko is the joint leading assist provider for ATKMB this season.

ATKMB have also shown a lot of character, coming back from a goal down to winning games and also eking out a point. They have mustered 11 points from losing positions this season, with only Bengaluru FC having more come-from-behind results. Liston Colaco has continued to blossom in the green and maroon shirt, the pacy winger causing problems to almost every team’s defence and now with Manvir Singh also finding form, the duo looks deadly.

“My foreign players are not 100 percent ready. After injuries, there is a recovery. But they are improving a lot. This is the best moment of the season and they are good, if not 100 percent,” Ferrando said of his foreign contingent struggling with injuries.

On Roy Krishna returning from injury, the Spaniard said: “We will see. He is recovering.”

Ferrando said the plan for Odisha will be the same like all games and the focus will not be on any individual player.

“We will focus on the team as a whole and not any one player. Odisha have a good team with quality foreigners and also local players. We will prepare for the whole team and not just one player.”

Odisha, meanwhile, saw their slim chances of making the semifinals go up in smoke after a 2-1 defeat to Bengaluru FC. They are placed seventh with 22 points from 18 outings. Odisha failed to keep pace with their good start to the season when it mattered, managing only one win in the last seven games.

“We are playing against one of the best teams in the Hero ISL. That is a big motivation for all my players. We did well in the first leg with them and we want to continue the good work for the club and the fans.

Asked about the improvement of Indian players in the team, he said: “They have improved a lot. The Indian players are doing well. As a team, we need to keep working hard as a unit. We have to focus on small details. We realise our mistakes and we are working on it.”

The two teams played out a 0-0 draw the last time they met, this season but ATKMB have an unbeaten record over Odisha, winning two of the three face-offs between them in the competition with one ending in a stalemate.

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