KOLKATA: Atletico de Kolkata can secure their place in semi-finals of Indian Super League with just a point against Kerala Blasters at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, Kolkata, on Tuesday.
Atletico de Kolkata are placed third with 18 points from 12 matches and will be guaranteed of a top-four finish with a draw against Kerala Blasters. The former champions enjoy a superior head-to-head record against both Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United FC, while only one of those team can overtake Delhi Dynamos’s points tally as they battle amongst themselves in the concluding league clash.
Based on current form, Atletico de Kolkata will be favourites to become the third team to book their place.
“The work that these players have been doing since the day one gives me confidence. They are working really hard. They are improving. They are trying to do their best and help the team,” said Molina during the pre-match media interaction.
Atletico de Kolkata scored a last-gasp 2-1 victory against FC Goa in their last match. It was a match they dominated and deserved to score more goals, a fact that was emphasised by the Spanish coach.
“We had a great match in Goa. We could have scored more goals but I think the players now don’t worry to take on anyone. It doesn’t matter which teams is in front of us. It’s all the same. We try to dominate the game, defend well and score as many goals as possible,” said Molina.
Atletico de Kolkata are sweating on the fitness of star midfielder Sameehg Doutie, besides Stephen Pearson and Lalrindika Ralte. While Doutie has fever and didn’t train with the team, Lalrindika and Pearson have not yet recovered from injuries.
Kerala Blasters have done well to reach the fourth spot for now after collecting just a point from their first three matches. A win for Kerala Blasters will take them closer to the semi-final spot (97.53%), although they will not be guaranteed a top four place as they are dependent on head-to-head record of teams who can reach 21 points like Atletico de Kolkata, Delhi Dynamos and NorthEast United FC.
“We feel we are in a decent position (to qualify) and Kolkata will feel the same. There is an awful lot to play for tomorrow night. We are looking forward to it. It’s coming to the meaty end of the season. You need to try and play your very best (during) these last couple of games,” said Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell.
Despite Coppell’s confidence, Kerala Blasters will have to remain guarded against Atletico de Kolkata. Kerala are on a four-match winning streak at home but have failed to impress in away games. They have not won any of their last three away matches and have conceded 10 goals away from home, a record that is bettered only by bottom-placed teams like Chennaiyin FC (12) and FC Goa (12).
Worryingly, Kerala Blasters have failed to score in four of their six away games and scored only three away goals, the lowest by any team.
“Three points are important for both teams. Kolkata have been unlucky in few of the games which they have drawn. They have powerful forwards and we will have to be at our best to get anything out of the game,” said Coppell.