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ISL 2020-21 Play-offs | ATK-Mohun Bagan vs Northeast United FC - Preview

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Roy Krishna (left) and Dylan Fox (right) in action during the last match between ATK-Mohun Bagan and Northeast United FC

ISL

ISL 2020-21 Play-offs | ATK-Mohun Bagan vs Northeast United FC - Preview

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sounak mullick

03/05/2021

ATK-Mohun Bagan are all set to face the Northeast United FC challenge in the two-legged play-offs clash scheduled for March 6 and March 9 respectively. While the 'Mariners' would take the field as favourites, Khalid Jamil's men would be eyeing no lesser than pulling off an unexpected upset.

ATK-Mohun Bagan

Where do they have an edge?

For a team that has conceded just 15 goals this season, it won’t take a second to figure out their strengths, but the compactness they’ve shown throughout is an aspect that ought to be mentioned. Apart from the stalwarts - Sandesh Jhinghan and Tiri, at the heart of the defence, ATK-Mohun Bagan possesses two of the most experienced side-backs in the circuit - Subhashish Bose and Pritam Kotal. With three Indian national team regulars in the back-four, Habas can skip worrying about the blocking part it seems, with custodian Arindam Bhattacharja is the silver lining, having kept 10 clean sheets this season - the most by any.

Overall, the players are much more experienced than their Northeast United FC counterparts, with top Indian players forming the core with quality overseas footballers. The ‘Highlanders’, on the other hand, have been hard-working and abiding strictly to Khalid Jamil’s pointers to reach the play-offs, which was undoubtedly a class act. But, with mastermind Antonio Lopez Habas’ record in crunch matches, we ought to give them a head-start going into the back-to-back fixtures. The Spaniard is by far the greatest tactician the Indian Super League has ever seen.

Where are they lacking?

The ultra-defensive approach has cost them a few times in the past, especially when they concede goals before scoring. It proves that playing on the counter cannot fetch you results all the time. Even though the dynamics have shifted towards a more positive play in the last few matches, that doesn’t erase the fact that the ‘Mariners’ are predominantly defensive and play possession-based football, an area which Northeast United FC can pounce on and make them unrest by breaking the rhythm. 

Roy Krishna (left) and Manvir Singh (right) both hold key to ATK-Mohun Bagan's fortunes © ISL

Men who matter

Roy Krishna 

It has been a one-man show for ATK-Mohun Bagan when it comes to the offensive side of things, with the Fijian carrying the burden of scoring goals on his shoulders throughout the ISL. With 14 strikes to his name so far (half of the total number of goals scored by the team so far. While the stats merely gives an account of his capabilities, the manner in which he converts just documents his unending thirst to get the ball into the back of the net. Krishna is the kind of match winner who can sneak opportunities in a situation where others can hardly imagine. As long as the striker is donning the ‘green and maroon’ jersey, it’s game-on for the opponents and with him scoring a goal each in the two fixtures against Northeast United FC, there’s more coming in the way.

Tiri

Apart from an own goal against arch-rivals SC East Bengal, the Spanish defender has hardly set a foot wrong in the ongoing edition of the Indian Super League, forming an impenetrable shield with Sandesh Jhingan alongside him. Letting in just 15 goals in 20 matches speaks volumes of work done in the defense, with Tiri always playing the lead. What works in his favour is the amount of time he’s spent in India, having an idea of the trade in this part of the world in and out. With 125 clearances in the tournament so far, there’s hardly any doubt that Tiri is a no-nonsense stopper who would put his body on the line if danger looms in their half. An asset for the Kolkata-based side, Northeast United FC will face a stiff challenge to go past Tiri and find the net.

Northeast United FC

Where do they have an edge?

It is very unfair and difficult to point out any particular area they have excelled in the ongoing Indian Super League, with Khalid Jamil’s men gaining entry into the play-offs based on the combined effort put in by each player equally. While Federico Gallego has been the face of Northeast United FC’s fortunes, how can we forget the contributions of Deshhorn Brown, Luis Machado and even VP Suhair? Both converted at crucial times with their nimble feet and completed the work initiated by Gallego or Khassa Camara in the playmaking zone. Benjamin Lambot and Dylan Fox cannot be ignored either, while Ashutosh Mehta has earned a national call-up after his prolific season as a side-back.

But, the Indian contingent is what ATK-Mohun Bagan should be concerned about. Apuia (Lalengmawia) is a known face right now and a tough kid to tackle, with him always busy in the midfield. With the ATK-Mohun Bagan players trying to play compact football and keep possession for longer periods, the Highlanders’ prodigy can unsettle them to an extent where the ‘Mariners’ can start committing mistakes. Khalid Jamil - a great observer of the game, might have already started jotting down points to overcome the Bagan test, but there’s no doubt he’ll bank on his young guns to light the fireworks.

Where are they lacking?

The only aspect which might give Khalid Jamil a sleepless night is the fact that he is going to field a relatively young side in the double-legged semi-finals. Yes, they have been phenomenal in the past few matches but that does not take away the fact that they are lacking big-match experience. A knockout game with ISL title and AFC Cup slot up for grabs - time will tell whether the ‘Highlanders’ young brigade crumble or rise up to the occasion to establish themselves as the best ever generation in the history of the club.

Federio Gallego has been instrumental in Northeast United FC's campaign © ISL

Men who matter

Federico Gallego

The all-rounder Northeast United FC banks on to make the difference more often than not. Federico Gallego missed out on a few matches owing to a hamstring injury in the early stages of the ISL, but had enough time to steer his side to their second ever top-four finish. The Uruguayan scored four times and assisted six others en-route to the miraculous turn-around in their campaign. The ability to marshall his troops and build an attack, with actively taking part in it is the standout value Gallego possesses and Khalid Jamil is overwhelmed to plant him in the strategic positions to reap maximum dividends. Even though he’s played 27 minutes in the last game, there’s no doubt he’ll be inside the pitch from kick-off this Saturday evening.

Benjamin Lambot 

With Roy Krishna storming from the other side, Benjamin Lambot is a man who ‘matters’ for Northeast United FC. Barring him, there’s no footballer with the experience, ability, and physicality to counter the carnage of ATK-Mohun Bagan’s goal machine. With 74 clearances, 33 blocks and 37 tackles to his name so far, the Belgian has nothing to prove statistically. With him also gaining the faith of Khalid Jamil, the solidly built defender is the commander-in-chief in at the back, with Dylan Fox just complimenting his classy act. Even if we leave aside the Krishna-factor, David Williams and Marcelinho are also part of Bagan’s attack. So, it’s double the task for Lambot in the upcoming fixtures.

Fixtures for the semi-finals:

Leg-1 

Northeast United FC vs ATK-Mohun Bagan

Date: 06-03-2021

Venue: GMC Stadium, Bambolin, Goa

Time: 7:30 P.M

Leg-2

ATK-Mohun Bagan vs Northeast United FCqws

Date: 09-03-2021

Venue: Fatorda Stadium, Goa

Time: 7:30 P.M

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