Ashley Westwood

ISL 2017: Excitement in air as ATK face Chennaiyin FC

[caption id="attachment_62071" align="aligncenter" width="580"]The ATK team during a practice session before a game The ATK team during a practice session before a game[/caption]

Kolkata, January 24: ATK interim coach Ashley Westwood is confident that his team can still defend their title in the Hero Indian Super League. ATK are the most successful team in the Hero ISL winning the trophy twice in three years. This year, the defending champions have stuttered and are placed eighth with 12 points from 10 matches. The lacklustre showing led to the mutual parting of ways between ATK and chief coach Teddy Sheringham but Westwood believes their season is far from over.

The challenge for ATK would be to improve on their victories this season; they have won just three of their 10 matches and Westwood will have his task cut out against Chennaiyin FC at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, on Thursday.

“We don’t have lot of time to instil massive difference. Hope we can inject a little bit of freshness, new faces can change things a bit,” said Westwood.

Westwood needs no introduction and remains a popular figure in Indian football due to his successful three-year stint with Bengaluru FC. Taking charge of an ISL team, although temporarily, is a new experience for him but he is ready for the challenge.

“Temporarily, I am in charge. I’ve been a head coach before, coached for four years; three years full time in India, so I don’t see any difficulty. I am confident in what I do and confident in the team. This is part and parcel of football. It's not difficult at all,” said Westwood, who confirmed that star striker Robbie Keane is unavailable for this match due to injury.

It will be baptism by fire for Westwood in the ISL as ATK face Chennaiyin FC, who are placed second with 20 points from 11 matches and have already won more than double the matches what ATK did.

Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory returns to take charge of the team after serving a three-match ban. The visitors lost their last match against NorthEast United FC and Gregory is hoping that there is no revival at ATK with Ashley taking charge.

“Sometimes these kind of things happen. New guy comes in and suddenly everything changes. We saw what happened at NorthEast couple of weeks ago. My good friend Avram Grant came in and they got an amazing victory against FC Goa. Sometimes it works and sometimes doesn’t. I just have to make sure it doesn’t work (for ATK),” said Gregory.

Gregory was full of praise for ATK’s achievements since the start of the season and was looking forward to the huge clash.

“To me and all my players, we look at ATK like the Manchester United of India. It’s a huge club. Obviously, they have been champions twice. We have been champions once (but) we still look up to ATK. 25 players want to play tomorrow night because it’s ATK. They are fired up. At the start of season when the fixtures come out, the first thing I did was ‘when do we play ATK’. That’s what they do in England; ‘when do we play Manchester United’,” said the Chennaiyin FC coach.

When the teams met in the first leg at home, Chennaiyin FC won 3-2 in a match that has been described by the former England midfielder and Premier League manager as “one of the most exciting game of my complete career.”

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