Just when it seemed like ATK were gaining some momentum, a series of below-par results mean that the pressure will be back on Teddy Sheringham when the defending champions take on Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru, on Sunday.
ATK haven’t won in four games now, drawing two and losing two, and managing just three goals in 360 minutes of football.
Meanwhile, Bengaluru have just one blip in their last five matches. They’ve collected a brilliant 12 out of a possible 15 points, scoring 13 goals in the process. It’s almost David vs Goliath when you see the form chart but ATK will be aware that Bengaluru have lost twice at home already.
The game will probably be overshadowed by reports that ATK’s star striker Robbie Keane has courted interest from his former club Wolverhampton Wanderers – where he shot to stardom. Wolves are eyeing promotion to the Premier League from England’s second division – the Championship.
“Keane is the right person to answer this,” ATK assistant coach Bastab Roy said, while affirming that the ‘entire team’ has travelled to Bengaluru.
Roy was particularly cagey in the press conference – hardly giving anything away. But he did say that “the team has some plans (for Bengaluru)” and they had not lost hope of making it to the last four.
“This league is very unpredictable and it is too early to say that we have lost hope. It will be decided in the last one or two games,” he said.
Bengaluru have taken to the Hero Indian Super League like ducks to water. The transition from the Hero I-League has been seamless and top spot is at stake for them. A victory against ATK will take them two points clear of FC Pune City, who have played a match more.
Albert Roca hinted that he may not chop and change his team, given the string of good performances they’ve given him.
“Our performances are good and it is difficult to change the team when that happens. That said, everybody has to be alert and together. But I don’t like to make too many changes and we are ready for everything,” the Spaniard said.
Bengaluru have plundered six goals in the last two matches and conceded just one. Both these games came at home and it slowly looks like they’re getting into the stride for the season.
“We lost games in the last few minutes previously and those were good lessons for us. After every game we need to see where we make mistakes and what really happened – not just players, but also myself. We have to look forward and not make the same mistakes,” said Roca.
ATK’s season has been one of downs more than ups, and they will need to perform out of their skins to break the rut and start climbing up the table.