Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata
Wednesday, 16th December, 2015
Chennaiyin FC completely ran riot over Atletico de Kolkata, in the first leg of the semi final at the Belawadi stadium in Pune, leaving the defending champions in complete disarray. A 1-0 first leg away loss is seen as more of an equal chance for both sides. 2-0, and it would have been advantage Chennai, but Kolkata would still have a good chance of turning things around at home. However, at 3-0, the tie looks quite gloomy for Antonio Lopez Habas and his men, as they welcome Chennaiyin FC to the Yubabharati Krirangan, or the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Atletico de Kolkata
However, one thing that is still holding the tie together is the fact that ATK have been brilliant at the Salt Lake Stadium, and buoyed by the cauldron-like atmosphere created by the fanatical lovers of the beautiful game at the 68,000-seater arena, just about anything could happen. The Kolkata faithful are absolutely crazy about the game and expect nothing but qualification for the final, from the Red and Whites, to get a chance to stamp their authority over Indian football at their traditional old enemy’s backyard in Goa.
The task is a steep one though, and ATK would need their supporters to back them to the hilt, if they are to have a chance of beating a Chennaiyin site that does not look like they would accept defeat at anyone’s hands at the moment. However, no matter how strong the support might be, injury worries have plagued the home side, who might miss a couple of key players in this important match. Team captain and defensive midfielder Borja Fernandez picked up a hamstring injury in the first leg of the match, and his absence had clearly affected the side, as they went on to concede three goals to Chennaiyin FC.
Borja had missed the team’s training session on Monday, and there is a huge possibility that he might end up not playing in the match. In another blow Borja’s defensive partner Ofentse Nato might also not feature in ATK’s starting lineup, as he has also reported to have been injured. Nato also missed out on the Monday training session for ATK, which poses huge problems for coach Habas in the midfield area.
Another injury worry for Habas is that of winger Sameehg Doutie, who has reportedly picked up a knock ahead of the second leg. However, his injury is not said to be as severe, and it is believed that the South African will take his place on the right wing. However the two injuries in midfield might just force Habas’ hand into pushing more men forward, which also happens to be the need of the hour at the moment. An old fashioned 4-4-2 looks to be on the cards, with ATK playing star striker Iain Hume and Dejan Lekic up front.
Gavilan can slot back into midfield, alongside Jewel Raja, if both Borja and Nato cannot pass the fitness test for the game, allowing Habas to play Valdo on the left wing. This looks like a really attacking combination, but there are great doubts whether it would work or not. Both Hume and Lekic had played together for the majority of the first leg, and had not really shown much cohesion between them. Lekic in particular looked slow, and out of shape in the match, often playing with his back to the goal, something that requires a lot of skill.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Amrinder; Denzil, Tiri, Arnab, Rino; Valdo, Gavilan, Jewel, Doutie; Hume, Lekic.
The Super Machans are playing their hearts out at the moment. The tragic floods in Chennai had left much of the city under water, earlier this month, killing more than 200 people in Tamil Nadu. This seems to have buoyed the team up, as they look to win the ISL trophy for the flood-affected people of the city.
However, they would have to get past a determined ATK side first, and even though they are three goals ahead, manager Marco Materazzi would be weary of the effect a hostile crowd can have on an away team, having played under such occasions many times in Europe himself. It is going to be a huge test for Chennaiyin FC, who’s talismanic striker Stiven Mendoza has been on tremendous form this season. That is not to say however, that Chennaiyin FC are a one-man-side. The tremendous work that the midfield duo of Thoi Singh and Harmanjot Khabra have shown throughout the season has allowed creative players to play freely upfront.
There is some good news in store for Materazzi, as midfielder Elano and right fullback Mehrajuddin Wadoo are both set to make their comeback, after missing the first leg due to injury. Of course, Wadoo has been irreplaceable at right back this season, and will slot straight back into that position. However, slotting Elano into a 4-3-3 might be a bit more tricky than usual, as he is more of an attacking midfielder. The formation looks like a natural 4-2-3-1, when the midfield trio of Thoi, Khabra and Elano play together, with the two Indians playing the pivoting roles in midfield.
It seems unlikely though that Materazzi would make any changes to his front three (striker and two wingers). One does not need to say much about Mendoza, to explain how crucial he is to the side. Jeje Lalpekhlua has also been good this season, supporting Mendoza from the wings. Also, Materazzi is unlikely to drop Bruno Pelisari from the starting XI, as the Italian winger has been brilliant in the last match, scoring a scorcher of a free kick, which left ATK keeper Amrinder Singh dumbfounded between the sticks.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Edel; Dhana, Mendy, Mailson, Wadoo; Khabra, Thoi; Pelisari, Elano, Jeje; Mendoza.
Players to watch out for
Gavilan (Playmaker, Atletico de Kolkata)
The Spaniard has been instrumental for ATK this season, pulling the strings from the middle of the park. His role in the side becomes all the more important, with possible absence of Borja and/or Nato, as ATK go looking for at least three goals.
Thoi Singh (Midfielder, Chennaiyin FC)
The Indian midfielder has been a tireless worker in the middle of the park, and his work-rate has allowed the Chennaiyin FC attackers to go ahead and score the crucial goals for them. At a packed Salt Lake Stadium, Chennaiyin FC would need every bit of his energy to stop ATK from scoring the three goals.
Atletico de Kolkata 1-2 Chennaiyin FC
Although ATK are playing in front of their home crowd, some of their key players are set to miss the match, and this could greatly affect the game. While ATK would be looking to go on the attack for the goals, Chennaiyin FC certainly has enough pace to catch them on the break, and put this tie beyond their reach.
Image Courtesy: ISL Media Team