12/12/2018 9:48:50 PM (GMT+3)

Bengaluru take on ATK in crunch match

Bengaluru take on ATK in crunch match

BANGALORE: Bengaluru FC will host ATK in their last game of the year as the first phase of the Indian Super League draws to a close for both sides at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Thursday.

The Blues sit three points clear at the top of the table, albeit with the game in hand that they will play against Steve Coppell’s men.

“ATK are a good team and it’s going to be a very tough game. They want to be in the play-offs and need the points which makes victory against us a priority. Their two lines of four in defence are very tough to break and there’s always the threat of Lanzarote in attack,” said Bengaluru FC coach Carles Cuadrat.

The game will also mark the return of defender John Johnson for the first time since leaving the Blues to join ATK at the start of the season. The Englishman spent five years with Bengaluru and will be critical to ATK’s efforts on the night.

While the defence hasn’t been a worry, Steve Coppell’s men have struggled in front of goal this season and the loss of Kalu Uche has had a bearing with the threat they pose going forward.

Uruguayan Emiliano Alfaro, who joined on loan from Pune has also been ruled out injured and Australian striker Eli Babalj has been drafted in, and has made two late appearances from the bench.

ATK have scored in just two of the last five games and Coppell would want more bite from his men up front.

But while they’ve struggled to score, ATK haven’t given much joy to opposition strikers as well. They put behind the 2-1 defeat at home to Bengaluru to string together a run that has seen them unbeaten in five games now.

In four of these, former BFC ’keeper Arindam Bhattacharya and his defence, have kept clean sheets while conceding just twice.

Miku’s absence has been massive for the Blues, but Cuadrat will take confidence from the fact that despite missing their talisman, a rejigged frontline has ensured that Bengaluru are the only team to have found the net in every game.

“At this stage last year, we had 18 points, and this time we have 24. I am happy with the performance of my players and those who have been coming off the bench for us. The break that’s coming up will give us time to get Miku fit again, and we’re all looking forward to that,” the Spaniard added.