Bagan ready to relaunch top-four ambitions with Blasters encounter
Vasco da Gama, January 19, 2022
ATK Mohun Bagan will be in action after a while, looking to stretch their unbeaten run when they take on table-toppers Kerala Blasters FC in the 2021-22 Hero Indian Super League at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Thursday.
The Mariners have played only nine games so far with 15 points and placed sixth in the points table. A win against current league leaders Kerala would take them to the top four with a game in hand but in Blasters, they face a team brimming with confidence.
Kerala are unbeaten in 10 games and Ivan Vukomanović can rely on a collection of attacking players who are in top form.
Adrian Luna has provided six assists in 11 matches this season for Kerala and sits at the top of the assist leaderboard along with Ahmed Jahouh and Greg Stewart. Despite it being his first year in the Hero ISL, Luna has already started breaking assist records.
Kerala have found a dependable goalkeeper in Prabhsukhan Gill as well, the young shot-stopper impressing under the bar in his first season. Gill has made eight appearances this season and kept four clean sheets so far. No keeper apart from Gill has kept more than two clean sheets, underlining this being a dismal year for keepers.
ATKMB meanwhile bolstered their backline with the addition of Sandesh Jhingan who returned to the fold from Croatian side HNK Šibenik. The last time the two sides met in the first game of the season, ATKMB ran out 4-2 winners under then-coach Antonio Lopez Habas.
"It will be a completely different match. That was the start of the season. It is a new chapter. I was not there for the first game. My focus is against the Kerala of the present and we try to do the best tomorrow and the most important is the players have to be ready to help the team," ATKMB head coach Juan Ferrando said.
ATKMB have conceded 18 goals in their 9 matches this season and Ferrando would be concerned about his porous defence. They have now gone seven matches without a clean sheet, their joint-highest such run in the Hero ISL.
ATKMB will also miss the services of playmaker Hugo Boumous who is suspended for the tie. Boumous has been a crucial cog in ATKMB's attack. In 9 Hero ISL matches this season, he has scored five goals and provided three assists for the club. He is currently the joint highest goal scorer for the club.