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ATK desperate to bounce back against Dynamos

Smarting from two successive away defeats, defending champions Atletico de Kolkata will be desperate to return to winning ways when they host heavyweights Delhi Dynamos FC in an Indian Super League football match in Kolkata on Thursday.

Having started their campaign emphatically, ATK have slipped out of top four and are struggling to get their act together with injuries to some of their key players.

Grappling with injury woes to their marquee player Helder Postiga who’s not certain to return till mid-November, ATK, on the eve of the match, announced that their central defender Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey was ruled out of the entire season.

“One of the mainstays of ATK’s defence Josemi has sustained a left knee injury. He has been advised complete rest by our doctors,” ATK sports director Alberto Marrero said.

While Portuguese World Cupper Postiga, after his stunning debut for ATK against Chennaiyin FC in the ISL opener, is back home, another key forward, Arata Izumi, is also nursing an injury and did not feature in their 0-1 loss to NorthEast United FC in Guwahati in their last outing.

Their string of defeats began in Pune — a 0-1 loss that their coach Antonio Habas had described as his “worst game”.

“For me, I want to say that this was maybe the worst game for me in charge of ATK. I know people will say this was bad and catastrophic, but the idea is to get to the final four. We will battle games mentally and physically,” Habas said.

The script was similar in their next outing in Guwahati as they lost by an identical margin, but Marrero insisted that they’re not in a spot of bother.

“This is football. One day you win, one day you lose. Our team played well as a team.”

ATK missed quite a few chances in the match, most notably by Javi Lara in the second half as they went on to concede in their last four matches.

They have conceded six goals in five matches, something that would worry the team think tank and with Josemi ruled out for the season they may have to rejig their backline.

Right back Rino Anto had a poor outing in their last match and the team may think of bringing Denzil Franco in the starting XI.

In their 4-2-3-1 formation with Iain Hume as the sole forward, ATK looks fine but their midfield has looked less creative in the last two matches and it remains to be seen how Habas tackles the situation as they would look to exploit the home conditions.

In DDFC, they will have an opponent whose three-match winning run was broken in Mumbai, a 0-2 defeat last week as the Dynamos could not keep the attackers at bay after Sunil Chhetri’s brace.

The likes of Arnab Mondal will have their hands full to contain their local lad Robin Singh and former Chelsea winger Florent Malouda.

The tall and powerful Singh’s aerial ability will also pose a major concern for ATK’s defence while Malouda’s ability to unlock the opposition’s backline would be a treat to watch.

Malouda’s perfectly hit cross late in the game against Kerala found the head of Richard Gadze to make it three wins on the trot for the Dynamos as the 35-year-old would once again form the linchpin in the Lions’ attack.

For the football crazy fans of the city, the match will give them an opportunity to come face to face with another Brazilian icon ֫— 2002 World Cup winner Roberto Carlos, who’s here as the visitors’ marquee player-cum-coach.

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