Kolkata: Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) and Kerala Blasters will square off on Tuesday knowing a win will help them take giant strides towards sealing a playoffs berth in the Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament.
ATK are third in the points table, with 18 points from 12 matches, just above their opponents on goal difference. A win will ensure movement to the second spot and in a relatively safety zone in their aim to qualify for the semi-finals.
Mumbai City FC have all but secured a semis spot sitting pretty at the top of the heap with 22 points from 13 matches, followed by Delhi Dynamos at 20 points from 12 games.
NorthEast United FC — in the fifth spot with 15 points from 12 outings — are still in the fray and will like to catapult either of ATK or Kerala to grab a top four place.
ATK have won against Kerala away earlier in the tournament. But their uninspiring home form at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium will keep them on the edge.
ATK coach Jose Molina’s boys have only triumphed onve in five occasions at home.
They have lost one of their five home games and drawn thrice. ATK’s last league match is also at home against FC Pune City.
Kerala, on the other hand, could be peaking at the right time with local lad and Bengaluru FC striker CK Vineeth hitting a purple patch for the 2014 finalists.
He has scored thrice in four matches he has played so far also providing one assist for a goal.
Although Kerala were handed a 0-5 drubbing by Mumbai City FC recently, Steve Coppell’s side showed verve to comeback and win 2-1 against Pune in their last game.
Kerala’s defence is strong with Cedric Hengbart playing well at centre-back along with marquee player Aaron Hughes.
ATK will have to do well to break the backline and cannot afford to miss any opportunity that comes their way. Their forward line, comprising Helder Postiga, Juan Belencoso and Iain Hume will have a clear cut task. Influencial winger Sameehg Doutie will be back in the starting line-up.
ATK’s defence has been vulnerable so far and Kerala will be looking to exploit that flaw.