ISL 2017: Injury-pricked ATK to play for pride against Kerala Blasters

[caption id="attachment_62730" align="aligncenter" width="580"]Hero ISL M56 - ATK v Chennaiyin FC ATK to face Kerala Blasters at the Salt Lake Stadium today. Image Source: ISL[/caption]

Internet Desk: Defending champions ATK have been ravaged by injuries and left with just five foreign players as they make the last attempt in the season to do the improbable and stay alive in the Hero Indian Super League.

ATK interim coach Ashley Westwood has lost all three games since the departure of Teddy Sheringham but the former Bengaluru FC coach is believing in the mathematical possibility that should they win all the remaining matches, they will move to 27 points and have a “fighting chance” of making it to the top four.

Their next clash is against Kerala Blasters at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, on Thursday and he will have to do without three foreign players as star striker Robbie Keane, Portuguese midfielder Zequinha and Wales midfielder David Cotterill have all been ruled out.

“We are still with a fighting chance. We can get to 27 points. There is little bit (of) hope. As professional footballers, they need to play for their careers and new contracts. You don’t need motivating,” said Westwood, adding that players should be hungry to be part of the next edition of ISL.

ATK lost their last league clash against leaders Bengaluru FC despite their rivals having a player sent off in the second session. Westwood said they “completely dominated” Bengaluru FC and had “chance after chance” but paid a price for not converting any of the chances that came their way.

Kerala Blasters will be equally difficult particularly since the visitors now have a chance of qualification to the play-offs after scripting two victories in a row, including the last one against FC Pune City where CK Vineeth scored a last-gasp stunner.

Kerala Blasters are placed sixth with 20 points from 14 matches and have just four matches left to be played.

“We cannot falter. We need nothing less than four more wins from the remaining fixtures,” said Kerala Blasters coach David James.

James took over the team midway into the season and has turned the team’s fortunes wining 13 points from the last seven matches. Under Rene Meulensteen, Kerala had only seven points from the first seven matches.

“There is lot of talent in Kerala (Blasters). I am genuinely surprised that they were not higher up the table (when I took charge). I am fortunate to have such a group of players who are thoroughly enthusiastic to do well,” said James.

Kerala Blasters will miss the services of their captain Sandesh Jhingan who remains suspended after accumulating four yellow cards. According to the coach, they will also miss some players due to injuries and are waiting to know from the organisers if they can replace an injured foreign player with an Indian footballer, probably hinting at Iain Hume’s knee injury sustained in last game and may not be available for the rest of season.

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