With the semi-final race reaching its final phase, a fierce contest will be on cards when arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC face each other in a rescheduled 2021-22 Indian Super League (ISL) match at the PJN Stadium, here on Sunday.
ATKMB were halted in their tracks with two successive draws at a time when they were fighting for the League Shield, which now seems a distant dream. The Mariners have 31 points from 17 matches, four less than league leaders Hyderabad who have secured a semifinal spot, and three adrift of second-placed Jamshedpur FC who also have one foot in the knockout stages.
The green and maroons dropped points against Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC, losing their grip over the League Shield race but are very much in the fray for a semi spot with three games in hand.
For Bengaluru, the odds are heavily stacked against them. The Blues are placed sixth in the table with 26 points from 18 matches. They not only have to win their last two fixtures in the league stage but also hope other results go in their favour to keep their slim semi hopes alive.
“ATKMB are one of the best teams in the League. They have high-quality players, but we need to focus on ourselves. It’s an important game, these 90 minutes. We beat Odisha, and Odisha drew with them so that shows how strong we are,” said Bengaluru head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli.
On player availability, he said: “Jayesh and Rohit are back in training and we also have Iman, Damait, along with some other offensive players who can play in the number 10 position. The players who step into Danish’s position can do a good job and I am sure of it.
“Losing players is not only difficult, but it’s also interesting for a coach because we have players stepping in and they bring different things to the pitch. We can have a second striker coming in and deputizing for a midfielder,” he added.
Roshan Singh has had a breakthrough season, the young full-back providing the joint-most assists by an Indian in a single season.
“Roshan has come out of our system, and it’s not the end of the line. We have many more youngsters coming through and they can be really good additions to the season,” Pezzaiuoli opined.