Cracking finale in the offing

Kolkata and Kerala lock horns in inaugural title clash today

Cracking finale in the offing

After nearly 10 weeks of exciting action, a mouth-watering clash between Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters promises to provide a high-voltage finale to the inaugural Indian Super League football tournament here on Saturday.

A dash of cricketing flavour has been added to the contest given that Kerala are co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar and ATK are co-owned by Sourav Ganguly. Ironically, Saturday’s finalists finished third and fourth in the league stage, and the teams who were knocked out in the semifinals were top finishers Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa.

Both Blasters and ATK have had contrasting league rounds and semifinal matches.
The Blasters struggled in the initial few games and from being the basement dwellers at one point, they bounced back and started peaking at the end of the tournament.

They outclassed toppers Chennaiyin FC in the first leg of their semifinal and got the much-needed goal in extra time of the second one to beat the leaders 4-3 on aggregate and book a spot in the final.

On the other hand, ATK endured a drop in form after starting in fine fashion. They were the league leaders for the first few weeks but lost the plot before managing to scrape through to the last four stage.

With the Kolkata outfit finding it difficult to score goals in the second half of the league, they have relied on their solid defence to see them through to the final.
Fikru out
In a further blow to ATK’s attacking arsenal, they will be without the influential Fikru Teferra, who has been ruled out of the encounter with a hamstring tear.

But it’s not all doom and gloom as the return of striker Cavin Lobo and midfielder Jofre Gonzalez will lift the burden of skipper Luis Garcia.

Kingshuk Debnath, Arnab Mondal, Josemi, Biswajit Saha, Baljit Sahni form the core of the defence and have done well at the back.

The Blasters, who have won one and drawn one in the previous two meetings with ATK, will rely on Iain Hume’s industry and goals up front. 

The Canadian Hume will be well supported by the likes of Michael Chopra, Milagres Gonsalves and CS Sabeeth, who have all impressed.

Given that the two sides match up quite evenly on paper, an interesting contest is on the cards.

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